A Primer on the Kosovo War

The Kosovo city of Prizren.
The Kosovo city of Prizren. Photo credit to @mrika on Unsplash.

The recent tensions and clashes between ethnic Serbs and the Albanian-led government in Kosovo are just the latest in long-standing tensions between these two groups. The roots of the conflict date back to the late 1980s, when Yugoslavia began to unravel along ethnic and political lines, and peaked in the 1990s, during the Kosovo War.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, also known as SFR Yugoslavia, was a country that existed from 1945 to 1992. It was made up of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia. The capital city was Belgrade and the official language was Serbian.

Yugoslavia was originally created as a way to unify South Slavic people after World War II. The Communist Party took control of the government and Josip Broz Tito became the leader. Under Tito’s rule, Yugoslavia became a socialist state and developed its own version of communism. It was one of the most prosperous countries in Eastern Europe and had good relations with both the East and the West.

However, after Tito’s death in 1980, the country began to unravel. Nationalist politicians began to gain power, and there were ethnic tensions between the different republics. This led to the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars in 1991.

The Yugoslav Wars were a series of ethnic conflicts that took place in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001. These wars were fought between the Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, and Kosovar-Albanians. They began with the Croatian War of Independence in 1991. This was followed by the Bosnian War from 1992 through 1995, and the Kosovo War from 1998 to 1999. Over 100,000 people were killed in these wars, and millions more were displaced.

The legacy of the Yugoslav Wars is still felt today. These wars led to the breakup of Yugoslavia and the formation of several new countries, including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Slovenia.

The Croatian War of Independence was the first of the Yugoslav Wars. It began in 1991, when Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The war was fought between the Croatian Army and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). The JNA was made up of mostly Serb soldiers, and they were supported by Serb paramilitaries from Croatia and Bosnia. The war ended in 1995, with a Croatian victory, resulting in it becoming a member of the European Union in 2013.

The Bosnian War was the second of the Yugoslav Wars. It began in 1992, when Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. The war was fought between the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) and the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). The VRS was made up of mostly Bosnian Serb soldiers, and they were supported by the Serbian Army.

In May of 1992, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 780, which condemned the “ethnic cleansing” that was taking place in Bosnia. The Bosnian Genocide was the first European crime to be formally classified as genocide since World War II.

The war ended in 1995, with a peace agreement known as the Dayton Peace Accords. With Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina having both declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) began to lose control over these republics.

The JNA was made up of soldiers from all of the Yugoslav republics, but it was dominated by Serbs. Under the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosovic, the JNA became a tool of Serbian aggression. Kosovo, meanwhile, was still part of Serbia. But the Kosovar Albanians, who made up the majority of the population in Kosovo, wanted independence.

Serbia’s agenda was dictated by Milosovic, the President of Serbia at the time – a nationalist who was determined to keep Kosovo part of Serbia. The armed forces of Yugoslavia (which Serbia was a part of) were also involved in the conflict.

On the Kosovo-Albanian side was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA was formed in 1996 to fight for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. They were a guerrilla force, and they began carrying out attacks against Serbian security forces in Kosovo. In response, the Serbian government began a violent crackdown against the Albanian population in Kosovo. This led to an escalation of violence which turned into a full-blown war by February of 1998, when the KLA attacked a police station in the town of Prekaz. This attack led to a Serbian counter-offensive against the KLA, which resulted in civilian casualties and forced many ethnic Albanians to flee their homes.

The KLA was led by, among others, Hashim Thaci, who would go on to become President of Kosovo before being accused of war crimes himself. He was born in Kosovo and was a member of the Kosovo Albanian community in Switzerland.

NATO became involved in the conflict in March of 1999, just over one-year from the outbreak of the war, when they began bombing Serbian targets. This eventually forced Milosovic to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo. NATO troops then moved into Kosovo to maintain the peace.

In response to the Serbian offensive, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) issued a set of demands on the 13th of October 1998, known as the Rambouillet Accords. These demanded that Serbia withdraw its forces from Kosovo and allow NATO troops to enter the country in order to maintain the peace.

Serbia refused to sign the Rambouillet Accords, and as a result, NATO began bombing Serbian targets on the 24th of March 1999. This eventually forced Milosovic to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo. NATO troops then moved into Kosovo to maintain the peace. The bombing campaign lasted for 78 days, ending on June 11th, with the signing of a peace agreement between NATO and Serbia. As part of the agreement, Serbian forces were required to withdraw from Kosovo, and a NATO-led peacekeeping force was deployed to the region.

Today, Kosovo is an independent country. Its capital, Pristina, as well as other cities like its cultural center of Prizren (see featured image), are home to a number of international organizations, including the headquarters of NATO’s peacekeeping force in the region. Despite the challenges it faces, Kosovo is slowly rebuilding and moving forward.

Written by Editorial Team

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