Kosovo Serbs

Kosovo Serbs
Косовски Срби
Kosovski Srbi
Regions with significant populations
 Kosovo[a] ca. 100,000[1][2]
 Serbia 68,514[3]
Serbian Orthodox Church
Related ethnic groups
Other South Slavs, especially other Serbs.

Kosovo Serbs are one of the ethnic groups of Kosovo.[a] There are around 100,000 Kosovo Serbs as of 2014 and about half of them live in North Kosovo.[4] Other Serb communities live in southern Kosovo. After Albanians they form the second largest ethnic community in Kosovo (4-7%).[1][2][5][6][7]

The medieval Kingdom of Serbia (1217–1346) and the Serbian Empire (1346–1371) included parts of the territory of Kosovo until its annexation by the Ottomans following the Battle of Kosovo (1389), considered one of the most notable events of Serbian history.[8][9] Afterwards, it was a part of the Serbian Despotate. Modern Serbian historiography considers Kosovo in this period to be the political, religious and cultural core of the medieval Serbian state.[10]

In the Ottoman period (1455-1913), the situation of the Serbian population in Kosovo went through different phases. In the 16th century, the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć was re-established and its status strengthened. At the end of 18th century, the support of the Patriarchate to the Habsburgs during the Great Turkish War of 1683–1699 triggered a wave of migrations to areas under the control of the Habsburg Monarchy.[11] After the independence of the Principality of Serbia to its north, Kosovo came increasingly to be seen by the mid-19th century as the “cradle of Serb civilization” and called the "Serbian Jerusalem". Kosovo was annexed by the Kingdom of Serbia in 1912, following the First Balkan War.

As a region of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was divided in several banovinas. In the pre-World War II period, the Yugoslav colonisation of Kosovo took place which aimed to increase the number of Serbs in Kosovo with colonists from Central Serbia and Montenegro. After World War II Kosovo's districts were reunited as the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Serbs were one of the constituent people of the province within the Socialist Republic of Serbia.

As a result of the Kosovo War and following by its declaration of independence in 2008 it is partially recognised by the international community. Serbs are the second largest community in the Kosovo.[a]

More than half of Kosovo's pre-1999 Serb population (226,000)[12] including 37,000 Roma, 15,000 Muslims and 7,000 others were expelled to central Serbia and Montenegro after the Kosovo War.[13] According to the 2013 Brussels Agreement the establishment of a Community of Serb Municipalities, a self-governing association of municipalities with a majority Serb population in Kosovo is proposed.


The formal names for the Serb community in Kosovo is "Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija" (Srbi na Kosovu i Metohiji) or "Serbs of Kosmet" (Kosmetski Srbi), in use by the community itself and the Serbian government. They are also referred to as Serbs of Kosovo (Serbian: Косовски Срби/Kosovski Srbi) or Serbs in Kosovo (Serbian: Срби на Косову/Srbi na Kosovu, Albanian: Serbët në Kosovë). The term "Kosovo Serbs" is predominantly used in English. They are known by the demonym Kosovari,[14] though this is properly used for inhabitants of the region of Kosovo (in the narrow sense – centred around the Kosovo Field), along with Metohijci (of Metohija).[15]


Medieval period

Left: Stefan Dečanski, King of Serbia and founder of Visoki Dečani monastery
Right: Main Gate of the Fortress in Prizren, which Stefan Dušan used as capital of Serbian Empire

Sclaveni raided and settled the western Balkans in the 6th and 7th century.[16] The White Serbs are mentioned in De Administrando Imperio as having settled the Balkans during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), however, research does not support that the White Serbian tribe was part of this later migration (as held by historiography) rather than migrating with the rest of Early Slavs.[17] Serbian linguistical studies concluded that the Early South Slavs were made up of a western and eastern branch, of parallel streams, roughly divided in the TimokOsogovoŠar line.[18] However, per Ivo Banac in the early Middle Ages Eastern Herzegovinian dialects were Eastern South Slavic, but since the 12th century, the Shtokavian dialects, including Eastern Herzegovinian, began to separate themselves from the rest of the Eastern South Slavic dialects.[19]The Bulgarian Khan Presian (836–852) took over the territory of Kosovo from the Byzantines in the mid-9th century and Kosovo remained under the influence of the first Bulgarian Empire until the Byzantine restoration of the early 11th century.[20] In 1040–41 a massive Bulgarian rebellion broke out, which included Kosovo. Another rebellion broke out in 1072, in which Serbian prince Constantine Bodin was crowned Emperor of Bulgaria at Prizren,[21] however, despite some initial success, Bodin was eventually captured in southern Kosovo and the rebellion was suppressed.[22][23][24][verification needed] Vukan I, the new independent Serbian Grand Prince, began raiding Byzantine territories, first in Kosovo, advancing into Macedonia[clarification needed] (1091–95). He broke several peace treaties which he personally negotiated with the Byzantine Emperor at Zvečan and Lipljan, until finally submitting in 1106.

Novo Brdo Fortress was built by Stefan Milutin, King of Serbia. It has been referred as the "Mother of all Serbian cities"
Patriarchate of Peć, the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 14th century when its status was upgraded into a patriarchate

In 1166, a Serbian prince, Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjić dynasty, asserted independence after an uprising against the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus.[25] Nemanja defeated his brother, Tihomir, at Pantino near Pauni, and drowned him in the Sitnica river. Nemanja was eventually defeated and had to return some of his conquests, and vouched to the Emperor that he would not raise his hand against him. In 1183, Stefan Nemanja embarked on a new offensive allied with the Kingdom of Hungary after the death of Manuel I Komnenos in 1180, which marked the end of Byzantine domination over the region of Kosovo. Nemanja's son, Stefan, ruled a realm reaching the river of Lab in the south. Stefan conquered all of Kosovo by 1208, by which time he had conquered Prizren and Lipljan, and moved the border of his realm to the Šar mountain. In 1217, Stefan was crowned King of Serbs, due to which he is known in historiography as Stefan "the First-Crowned".[26]

In 1219, the Serbian Church was given autocephaly, with Hvosno, Prizren and Lipljan being the Orthodox Christian eparchies with territory in modern-day Kosovo. By the end of the 13th century, the centre of the Serbian Church was moved to Peć from Žiča.

Prizren serving as the capital of Serbia during the 14th century, and was a centre of trade.[27] King Stefan Dušan founded the great Monastery of the Holy Archangel near Prizren in 1342–1352. During those periods, several major monasteries were endowed with wast possessions in the regions of Kosovo and Metohija.[28] The Serbian Kingdom was elevated into an Empire in 1345–46. Stefan Dušan received John VI Kantakuzenos in 1342 at Pauni to discuss an alliance against the Byzantine Emperor. In 1346, the Serbian Archbishopric at Peć was upgraded into a Patriarchate, but it was not recognized before 1375. After the death of Dušan in 1355, the fall of the Serbian Empire began, with feudal disintegration during the reign of his successor, Stefan Uroš V (r. 1355–1371).[29][30]

Parts of Kosovo became domains of Vukašin Mrnjavčević, but Vojislav Vojinović expanded his demesne further onto Kosovo. The armies of Vukašin from Pristina and his allies defeated Vojislav's forces in 1369, putting a halt to his advances. After the Battle of Maritsa on 26 September 1371 in which the Mrnjavčević brothers lost their lives, Đurađ I Balšić of Zeta took Prizren and Peć in 1372. A part of Kosovo became the demesne of the Lazar of Serbia.[31][32]

Battle of Kosovo fought in 1389 between Serbs and Ottomans. 1870 Adam Stefanović painting.

The Ottoman Empire invaded the realm of Prince Lazar on 28 June 1389, at the Battle of Kosovo near Pristina, at Gazimestan. The Serbian army was led by Prince Lazar who led 12,000–30,000 men against the Ottoman army of 27,000–40,000 men. Lazar was killed in battle, while Sultan Murad also lost his life, believed to have been assassinated by Serbian knight Miloš Obilić. The outcome of the battle is deemed inconclusive, with the new Sultan Bayezid having to retreat to consolidate his power. Vuk Branković came to prominence as the local lord of Kosovo, though he was an Ottoman vassal at times, between 1392 and 1395.[33][34]

Another battle occurred in Kosovo 1448 between the Hungarian troops supported by the Albanian ruler Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg on one side, and Ottoman troops supported by the Branković dynasty in 1448. Skanderbeg's troops en route to help John Hunyadi were stopped by the Branković's troops, who was more or less an Ottoman vassal. Hungarian regent John Hunyadi lost the battle after a 2-day fight, but essentially stopped the Ottoman advance northwards.[35] In 1455, southern regions of the Serbian Despotate were invaded again, and the region of Kosovo was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire and incorporated it into the Ottoman administrative system.[36]

In 1455, new castles rose to prominence in Pristina and Vučitrn, centres of Branković District.

Early Modern period

The Ottomans brought Islamization with them, particularly in towns, and later also created the Kosovo Vilayet as one of the Ottoman territorial entities. During the Islamisation many Churches and Holy Orthodox Christian places were razed to the ground or turned into mosques. The big Monastery of Saint Archangels near Prizren was torn down at the end of the 16th century and the material used to build the Mosque of Sinan-pasha, an Islamized Albanian, in Prizren. Although the Serbian Orthodox Church was officially abolished in 1532, an Islamized Serb from Bosnia, Grand Vizier Mehmed-pasha Sokolović influenced the restoration of the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in 1557. Special privileges were provided, which helped the survival of Serbs and other Christians on Kosovo.[37]

The Great Migrations of the Serbs, led by Patriarch Arsenije III Čarnojević, 17th century.

Kosovo was taken by the Austrian forces during the War of the Holy League (1683–1698). In 1690, the Serbian Patriarch of Peć Arsenije III, who previously escaped a certain death, led 37,000 families from Kosovo, to evade Ottoman wrath since Kosovo had just been retaken by the Ottomans.[38] The people that followed him were mostly Serbs, but there were numerous Orthodox Albanians and others too. 20,000 Serbs abandoned Prizren alone. Due to the oppression from the Ottomans, other migrations of Orthodox people from the Kosovo area continued throughout the 18th century. By contrast, some Serbs adopted Islam and gradually fused with the predominant Albanians, and adopting their culture and even language. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominating nation of Kosovo.[39]

In 1766 the Ottomans abolished the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć and the position of Christians on Kosovo was greatly reduced. All previous privileges were lost and the Christian population had to suffer the full weight of the Empire's extensive and losing wars, even to take the blame for the losses.[citation needed]

During the First Serbian Uprising, Serbs from northern parts of Kosovo prepared to join the uprising and an Ottoman-Albanian coalition arrived to suppress their efforts, before they could partake in the uprising. Ottoman violence resulted in a number of Serbs migrating to central Serbia in order to join rebels led by Karađorđe.[40][41] Kelmendi were the only Albanian tribe to fully support Serb rebels.[42] [43] After the independence of the Principality of Serbia to its north, Kosovo came increasingly to be seen by the mid-19th century as the “cradle of Serb civilization” and called the "Serbian Jerusalem".[44][45][46][47][48]

The term Arnauti or Arnautaši was coined by 19th and early 20th century Serbian ethnographers to refer to the Albanians in Kosovo, which they perceived as Albanised Serbs; Serbs who had converted to Islam and went through a process of Albanisation.[49][50] In modern anthropology, the historical validity of the term has been criticized as well as use as a tool of nation-building and homogenization policies of the Serbian state.[51][52][53][54]

Atrocities against Serbs during the Serbian–Ottoman War took place at the beginning of the century, with the Kosovo Albanians accused of driving some 150,000 Serbs out of Kosovo[55] and conducting a campaign of terror against the Serbian population who remained.[56]

Albanians formed the League of Prizren in Prizren in the late 19th century. The aim was to unite the four Albanian-inhabited Vilayets by merging the majority of Albanian inhabitants within the Ottoman Empire into one Albanian Vilayet. However at that time Serbs were opposing the Albanian nationalism along with Turks and other Slavs in Kosovo, which disabled the Albanian movements to establish Albanian rule over Kosovo.[citation needed]

In 1901, massacres of Serbs were carried out by Albanians in North Kosovo and Pristina.[citation needed]

Modern period

Serb women in traditional clothing, in Gjilan, 1911
Serb women in traditional clothing, near Prizren, 1913

The arising Kingdom of Serbia planned a restoration of its rule in Kosovo as Ottoman might crumbled on the Balkan peninsula. The period witnessed a rise of Serbian nationalism. During the First Balkan War, the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro fought alongside the Kingdoms of Greece and Bulgaria as part of the Balkan League to drive the Ottoman forces out of Europe and to incorporate the spoils into their respective states. Serbia, Montenegro and Greece had occupied the entire Western Balkan (Albanian-inhabited territories) with the exception of Vlora in the hope of achieving recognition with their new borders. Resistance from the Albanians across their entire region in favour of their own proposed independent nation state led to fighting between the Balkan League armies (less geographically uninvolved Bulgaria) and Albanian forces. To end the conflict, the Treaty of London decreed an independent Principality of Albania (close to its present borders), with most of the Vilayet of Kosovo awarded to Serbia and the Metohija region awarded to Montenegro.[57][58]

During the First World War, in the winter of 1915–1916, the Serbian army withdrew through Kosovo in a bid to evade the forces of the Central Powers. Thousands died of starvation and exposure. In 1918, the Serbian army pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo, and the region was unified as Montenegro subsequently joined the Kingdom of Serbia. The monarchy was then transformed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The 1918–1929 period of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes witnessed a decrease in the Serbian population of the region and an increase in the number of Albanians. In 1929, the state was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The territories of Kosovo were split among the Zeta Banovina, the Banate of Morava and the Banate of Vardar. The state lasted until the World War II invasion and Axis occupation of Yugoslavia (1941).

German soldiers set fire to a Serb village near Mitrovica, circa 1941.

After the invasion of Yugoslavia (6–18 April 1941), the Axis powers divided territory among themselves. Kosovo and Metohija was divided between Italian, German and Bulgarian occupation. The largest part of what is today Kosovo was under Italian occupation and was annexed into a axis Greater Albania, the Albanian Kingdom through a decree on 12 August 1941, while northern parts were included in German-occupied Serbia, and southeastern parts into the Bulgarian occupational zone.[59] Parts of eastern Montenegro and western Macedonia were also annexed to Albania.

During the occupation, the population was subject to expulsion, internment, forced labour, torture, destruction of private property, confiscation of land and livestock, destruction and damaging of monasteries, churches, cultural-historical monuments and graveyards.[59] There were waves of violence against Serbs in some periods, such as April 1941, June 1942, September 1943, and continuous pressure in various ways.[60] Civilians were sent to camps and prisons established by the Italian, German and Bulgarian occupation, and the Albanian community.[61] The expulsion of Serbs proved problematic, as they had performed important functions in the region, and been running most of the businesses, mills, tanneries, and public utilities, and been responsible for most of the useful agricultural production.[62] Most of the war crimes were perpetrated by the Vulnetari ("volunteers"),[63] Balli Kombëtar and the SS Skanderbeg Division.[64] The Skanderbeg Division was better known for murdering, raping, and looting in predominantly Serbian areas than for participating in combat operations on behalf of the German war effort.[65] The most harsh position of Serbs was in the Italian (Albanian) zone.[66] A large part of the Serb population was expelled or forced to flee in order to survive.[66] Serbian estimations put the number of expelled at around 100,000; an estimated 40,000 from the Italian-occupation zone, 30,000 from the German zone, and 25,000 from the Bulgarian zone.[67]

The Province of Kosovo was formed in 1946 as an autonomous region to protect its regional Albanian majority within the People's Republic of Serbia as a member of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia under the leadership of the former Partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito, but with no factual autonomy. After Yugoslavia's name changed to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia's to the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1953, the Autonomous Region of Kosovo gained some autonomy in the 1960s. In the 1974 constitution, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo's government received higher powers, including the highest governmental titles – President and Premier and a seat in the Federal Presidency which made it a de facto Socialist Republic within the Federation, but remaining as a Socialist Autonomous Region within the Socialist Republic of Serbia.

Ramiz Sadiku and Boro Vukmirović, People's Heroes of Yugoslavia and symbol of Serbian-Albanian friendship[68]

In 1981, Albanian students organized protests seeking that Kosovo become a Republic within Yugoslavia. Those protests were in Serbian and Albanian were defined official on the Provincial level marking the two largest linguistic Kosovan groups: Serbs and Albanians. In the 1970s, an Albanian nationalist movement pursued full recognition of the Province of Kosovo as another republic within the federation, while the most extreme elements aimed for full-scale independence. Tito's government dealt with the situation swiftly, but only gave it a temporary solution. The ethnic balance of Kosovo witnessed unproportional increase as the number of Albanians rose dramatically due to higher birth rates.[69] Serbs barely increased and dropped in the full share of the total population down to 10% due to higher demographic raise of the Albanian population.

In 1981, Albanian students organized protests seeking that Kosovo become a Republic within Yugoslavia. Those protests were harshly contained by the centralist Yugoslav government. In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) was working on a document, which later would be known as the SANU Memorandum. An unfinished edition was filtered to the press. In the essay, SANU explained the Serbian peoples history as victims of a 500-year and more genocide from Kosovo, and therefore called for the revival of Serb nationalism. During this time, Slobodan Milošević's rise to power started in the League of the Socialists of Serbia. Milošević used the discontent reflected in the SANU memorandum for his political goals.

One of the events that contributed to Milošević's rise of power was the Gazimestan Speech, delivered in front of 1,000,000 Serbs at the central celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, held at Gazimestan on 28 June 1989.

Soon afterwards, as approved by the Assembly in 1990, the autonomy of Kosovo was revoked back to the old status (1971). He had said "Strong Serbia, Weak Yugoslavia – Weak Serbia, Strong Yugoslavia" Milošević, however, did not remove Kosovo's seat from the Federal Presidency. After Slovenia's secession from Yugoslavia in 1991, Milošević used the seat to attain dominance over the Federal government, outvoting his opponents.

Left: Destroyed Serbian Orthodox Holy Trinity Church in Petrić village
Right: Ruins of a Serb part of Prizren destroyed during 2004 pogrom.

Breakup of Yugoslavia and Kosovo War

After the Dayton Agreement of 1995, the Kosovo Liberation Army, ethnic-Albanian paramilitary organisation that sought the separation of Kosovo and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania,[70][71][72][73][74] began attacking Serbian civilians and Yugoslav army and police, bombing police stations and government buildings, killing Yugoslav police and innocent people of all nationalities, even Albanians who were not on their side.[75] As of 2014, mass graves of Kosovar Albanian victims are still being found.[76] There have been many reports of abuses and war crimes committed by the KLA during and after the conflict, such as massacres of civilians (Lake Radonjić massacre, Gnjilane, Staro Gracko, Klečka etc.), prison camps (Lapušnik), organ theft and destruction of medieval churches and monuments.[citation needed]

According to the 1991 Yugoslavia census, there were 194,190 Serbs in Kosovo[77] after the Kosovo War, a large number of Serbs fled or were expelled and many of the remaining civilians were subjected to abuse.[78][79][80][81][82] During the unrest in Kosovo, 35 churches and monasteries were destroyed or seriously damaged. After Kosovo and other Yugoslav Wars, Serbia became home to highest number of refugees and IDPs (including Kosovo Serbs) in Europe.[83][84][85]

In total, 156 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries have been destroyed since June 1999, after the end of the Kosovo War and including the 2004 pogrom. Many of the churches and monasteries dated back to the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.[86] KLA fighters are accused of vandalizing Devič monastery and terrorizing the staff. The KFOR troops said KLA rebels vandalized centuries-old murals and paintings in the chapel and stole two cars and all the monastery's food.[87]

21st century

The interim Kosovo government unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, 17 February 2008.[88] Serbia refuses to recognise this declaration of independence. Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence has been recognised by 98 UN countries, and one non-UN country, the Republic of China (Taiwan). The remaining Kosovo Serbs (mostly in North Kosovo) want to remain part of Serbia, but Serbian majority towns are now rare in Kosovo.

Vidovdan celebration in Gazimestan (2009)

Some officials[who?] in the Serbian government have proposed a partition of Kosovo, with North Kosovo and Štrpce becoming part of Serbia or given autonomy. The United States opposes the partition of Kosovo, stressing that the "great majority of countries around the world are not going to stand for that."[89] In response to the seizure of railways in Northern Kosovo and formation of Serbian offices to serve as part of a parallel government, Kosovo's Prime Minister stated that they would "not tolerate any parallel institution on Kosovo's territory" and would assert their authority over all of Kosovo.[90] The UN's Special Representative in Kosovo said the "international community has made it very clear that no partition of Kosovo will be acceptable."[91] Ivan Eland, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, suggested such "a partition within a partition" would prevent a "Serbia-Kosovo War" and provides the "best chance" of Kosovo having a long-term stable relationship with Serbia.[92] Chairman of the Serb Municipalities of Kosovo Alliance Marko Jakšić dismissed the talk of partition and said the action of Serbs in Kosovo is to protest the Kosovo declaration. Oliver Ivanović, a Kosovo Serb political leader, said he was against Kosovo's partition because "most Serbs live south of the Ibar and their position would become unsustainable".[93] A Reuters analysis suggested that Kosovo may be divided along ethnic lines similar to Bosnia-Herzegovina. James Lyon of the International Crisis Group thinktank was quoted as saying, "the Republika Srpska style is acceptable for Serbia, but within the confines that it (Kosovo) is still part of Serbia."[94] Pieter Feith, the European Union's special representative in Kosovo, and the International Civilian Representative for Kosovo said no plans are under discussion to carve out a canton or grant any other autonomy to Serbs living in the north of Kosovo. He told the Pristina, Kosovo, daily Koha Ditore, "It is quite clear that the privileged relations between the Serbs here (in Kosovo) and Belgrade are in the spheres of education, health care, and religious objects," adding that "the government in Pristina has to be respected."[95]

Map showing the Serb community and the Albanian communities (yellow being the Albanian communities) by the Brussels Agreement in 2013

On 30 September 2008, Serbian President Boris Tadić stated that he would consider partitioning Kosovo if all other options were exhausted. The former Foreign Minister for Serbia and Montenegro, Goran Svilanović, applauded the suggestion saying "finally this is a realistic approach coming from Serbia. Finally, after several years, there is a room to discuss."[96] After his comments aroused controversy in the media, Tadić reiterated that he was suggesting this as a possibility only if all other options were exhausted.[97]

In the Brussels Agreement of 2013, Serbia agreed to grant the government in Pristina authority over Kosovo, while Pristina made an agreement to form Community of Serb Municipalities, which has not been fulfilled. Kosovo Serbs have accepted many aspects of Kosovo's rule and Kosovo Serbs now vote on Kosovo central election commission ballots in local elections.[citation needed]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kosovo Serbs found themselves in a limbo, stuck between different orders issued by Serbia and Kosovo.[98] In November 2020, during the COVID pandemics, Kosovo policemen and inspectors stormed and temporarily closed several Serb-owned pharmacies in North Kosovo, attempting to confiscate medicine supplies, because the items were allegedly not registered within the central system in Pristina. The act was met with citizen protest which were on the verge of escalation.[99][100] In December 2020, the vaccines for COVID-19 were sent to North Kosovo by Serbia without any consultation with Kosovan authorities. Kosovo opposed the arrival of those vaccines, claiming that they were illegally distributed by Serbia.[101][102] Only few people were vaccinated and the remaining vaccines were sent back after an investigation was launched.[103] In 2021 health workers from North Kosovo protested against arrests of their colleagues who are employed in the hospitals which take care of patients with COVID-19. They described the actions as "inhumane" and sent protesting letters to various international institutions and organisations.[104]

Kosovo’s Serb minority is often the target of demonstrations of hostility, occasionally of attacks.[105] In addition to that, members of the Kosovo Serbs community face mistreatment and prejudice in Serbia too.[106]


Ethnic groups in Kosovo
Year Albanians Serbs Others
1921 65 % 26 % 9 %
1931 60 % 33 % 7 %
1948[107] 68 % 24 % 8 %
1953 65 % 23 % 11 %
1961 67 % 23 % 9 %
1971 73 % 18 % 8 %
1981 77 % 13 % 9 %
1991[77] 82 % 10 % 8 %
2000[108] 88 % 7 % 5 %
2007[108] 92 % 5 % 3 %

During the 20th century, the Serb population of Kosovo constantly decreased. Today, Serbs mostly populate the enclaves across Kosovo, as well as North Kosovo, which comprises 11% of Kosovo's territory and where they comprise 95% of population. 1,200 km2 (463 sq mi). Diplomats from the United Nations have voiced concern over slow progress on minority rights.[109] Human Rights Watch pointed out discrimination against Serbs and Roma in Kosovo immediately after the war.[110]

ECMI calculated, based on 2010 and 2013 estimations, that ca. 146,128 Serbs resided in Kosovo, that is, ca. 7.8% of the total population.[7] In 2012, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia estimated that the number was 90–120,000.[111] The Republic of Kosovo-organized 2011 census did not take place in North Kosovo, and was boycotted by a considerable number of Serbs in southern Kosovo.[7] The ECMI did call "for caution when referring to the 2011 Census in Kosovo".[112] There are ten municipalities constituted by a Serb numerical majority.[7] These are the four northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zvečan, Zubin Potok, and the six southern (enclave) municipalities of Gračanica, Štrpce, Novo Brdo, Ranilug, Parteš and Klokot.[7] As of 2014, the OSCE estimates that around 96,000 Serbs live in Kosovo.[4]

The UNHCR estimated in 2019 that the total number of IDPs (Serbs and non-Serbs) from Kosovo in Serbia are 68,514.[3] Serbia has claimed (2018) that a total 199,584 IDPs from Kosovo (Serbs and non-Serbs) origin have settled and live in Serbia after the war based on the original data it gathered in 2000.[113][114] The UNHCR reported in 2009, based on the official figures by the government of Serbia, that around 205,835 IDPs who fled from Kosovo lived in Serbia.[115] These included Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians.[116] The registration data in 2000 are the only official data which have been generated and there has been no re-registration of IDPs in Serbia since 2000. The same figure has been used in all official reports since then with some statistical reconfigurations. As such, the reliability of the registration of IDPs living in Serbia has been questioned.[113][114][117]

In 2003, the number of Kosovo Serb IDPs in Montenegro was c. 12,000.[118] The numbers do not include those that have received Montenegrin citizenship. As of 2015, there were at least 6,600 Kosovo Serb refugees in Montenegro.[119] By 2019, there were 135 IDPs in total in Montenegro from Kosovo.[3]

Linguistic structure of Kosovo by settlements 1931
Serb-populated areas of Kosovo
Serb community in Kosovo (ECMI 2013 est.)
by municipality
Municipality Percentage Number
North Mitrovica 76.48% 22,530
Leposavić 96% 18,000
Zvečan 96.1% 16,000
Zubin Potok 93.29% 13,900
Štrpce 70.58% 9,100
Gračanica 82.15% 7,209
Novo Brdo 61.46% 5,802
Ranilug 97.15% 5,718
Parteš 99.96% 5,300
Gjilan 5.29% 5,000
Klokot 71.23% 3,500
Vučitrn 4.79% 3,500
Kamenica 8.01% 3,019
Obilić 12.37% 3,000
Lipljan 3.37% 2,000
Pristina 1% 2,000
Istok 4.16% 1,700
Orahovac 1.76% 1,000
Peja 1.03% 1,000
Kosovo Polje 2.51% 900
Klina 1.53% 600
Skenderaj 0.59% 300
Vitina 0.59% 280
Prizren 0.13% 237
Ferizaj 0.06% 60
Štimlje 0.18% 49
Deçan 0.11% 46
Gjakova 0.02% 17
Mitrovica 0.02% 14
Podujevo 0.01% 12
Dragaš 0.02% 7
Suva Reka <0.01% 2
Kaçanik <0.01% 1


The Battle of Kosovo is particularly important to Serbian history, tradition, and national identity.[120]

Eparchy of Raška and Prizren of Serbian orthodox church take care of Serbian people and Orthodox heritage in Kosovo. Numerous Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches are spread around Kosovo. Some of them include: Banjska monastery, Devič monastery, Gračanica monastery, Patriarchal Monastery of Peć, Visoki Dečani monastery and Our Lady of Ljeviš. The last four make up the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, founded by the Nemanjić dynasty, is a combined World Heritage Site.[121]

Medieval fortifications built by Serbian rulers and lords present important cultural heritage.

In connection with social gatherings among the Serbs around the churches and monasteries called Sabori during the Slava and Hram (Patron of the monastery) there was a belief that everyone must dance (to instrumental accompaniments) in order to gain and secure good health.[citation needed] In upper Prizren the Sabor was held on 21 November by the ruins of the monastery of the Holy archangel founded by the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan the Mighty in the 14th century. There were also great social gatherings at the Kaljaja fortress.[122]

Serbian folk music is rich in a large number of songs from Kosovo, which were especially preserved in the performances of Jordan Nikolić and Mara Đorđević.[citation needed]

The Serbs in Kosovo speak the dialects of Zeta-South Raška, Kosovo-Resava, and Prizren-South Morava.[citation needed]

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Prominent people


Lazar of Serbia, Serbian ruler who led the army in the Battle of Kosovo


Religious people

Military people


Science and education


Ljuba Tadić, actor


Milutin Šoškić, football player and Olympic champion
Milena Rašić, World and European champion, Olympic silver medalist in volleyball
Novak Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players, whose father was born in Kosovo[124]
Luka Dončić, basketball player has origins in Kosovo on father's side


See also