• Brighty

A (very) brief history of Kosovo

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Europe’s newest country was recognised as an independent state in 2008 and as of 2019, 102 out of 193 UN member states have recognised Kosovo. However, many still believe “Kosovo is Serbia”.

Legally, Kosovo was not incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia when Serb forces pushed out the Ottoman Empire, in 1912. Technically, it remained occupied territory until some time after 1918 when it became one of the 8 federal states of Yugoslavia.

There were approx 25% Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo at time of independence. The majority population was Albanian and didn't welcome Serb rule.

Bill Clinton played a key role in Kosovo's bid for independence and is commemorated with this statue, in Pristina

The counter argument is that the 2008 demographic was drastically swayed because Serbs had felt forced to leave and that Albanians had been steadily migrating into the area, not always legally.

Whatever the reality is, it’s most certainly complicated. What’s clear is that NATO forces are largely US backed and controlled. They attacked Serbia and pushed Serb troops out of Kosovo establishing a natural geographic boundary at the Ibar river. The US now has a strategic military base in Kosovo - read into that what you will.

We visited Serbian orthodox monasteries in Peja, Kosovo, that are protected by armed guards for fear of hostility. We had to show our passports before being allowed inside. It’s an uneasy truce but who knows how long that will last.

The Newborn monument was unveiled on the day Kosovo declared independence. It is repainted and re-imaged every year, on its anniversary.

This year's incarnation - year 11

Our stay in Kosovo was brief - just a couple of days in Peja and a couple of days in Pristina - the capital.

We visited the bear sanctuary, just outside Pristina. All the bears there had been rescued from awful conditions. Most had been kept in cages as entertainment for restaurant clientele.

It was made illegal to keep bears in 2010 and FourPaws quickly established the 16 hectare sanctuary. It is lovely - informative for visitors but primarily there to restore the health and wellbeing of the bears. My girlfriend took this brilliant video...I was too busy laughing:

The local people we met there were kind and generous. Most wanted to know why we had come to Kosovo. Sadly for them, foreign travel is difficult if not impossible because of the difficulty in getting a visa. Another reason for us to feel very very fortunate!

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I enjoy writing and love to travel. So I’ve convinced my lovely girlfriend to put our ‘sensible’ lives on hold while we enjoy one more year of what my dad may describe as slightly reckless abandon. I.e. no work and definitely no pension contribution. Sorry Dad: I’ll try again next year. 

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