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Context of 'End of January to April 1990: Serbia Takes Control of Kosovo’s Police following Violent Demonstrations'

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Albanian flag.Albanian flag. [Source: Albanian Music (wikispaces.com)]The Yugoslav government allows Albanians to fly the Albanian flag, which is red with a black double eagle, during events such as national holidays. Officials say this follows policy decisions at the July 1, 1966 Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee of the LCY (League of Communists of Yugoslavia), on the Island of Brioni. Some Serbs and Montenegrins will point to the decision on the Albanian flag as a cause of the violent demonstrations. [Prifti, 1999, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, LCY

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Mahmut Bakalli, president of the League of Communists’ Kosovo Provincial Committee, resigns and is replaced by Veli Deva, also a Kosovar Albanian. Bakalli is blamed for not seeing a series of demonstrations that have rocked the province coming, although at a committee meeting on March 8 he did say there was a lack of basic goods and that conditions had to be alleviated for those without jobs or with low wages, as well as students. The next month another senior official resigns and in all six of the nine committee members leave their positions. In his last speech, Bakalli blames “subversive propaganda” from Albania, and says letting the situation get out of hand is his responsibility. In September 1981 a report by the Serbian and Kosovo committees of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia will blame Bakalli’s administration, saying it did not warn the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, though it allegedly knew the Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia was planning demonstrations and that Albanian nationalism was increasing. Veli Deva is a former committee president and has the support of Albanians, for opposing Serb chauvinism, but is also against the Albanian government. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 201, 208; Kola, 2003, pp. 161-162]

Entity Tags: Mahmut Bakalli, Kosovo Provincial Committee of the LCY, Veli Deva, Yugoslavia, Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Pristina University students begin protesting over dormitory and dining hall conditions at the school. The protest grows and hundreds of protesters go off campus, where they are blocked by police. The police try to detain the alleged organizers, which brings out more people overnight, and begins to radicalize their demands. In coming weeks and months, the government and media will blame many groups and countries for the demonstrations, but in interviews years later with Albanian scholar and diplomat Paulin Kola, Kosovan nationalist Xhafer Shatri will say that he thinks the events were unplanned. On the morning of March 12, the crowd is dispersed with tear gas. More demonstrations will erupt in a week.
The Students of Kosovo - Because unemployment is high in Kosovo, many Kosovars turn to further education, making Kosovo’s ratio of students to population the greatest in Yugoslavia—274.7 out of 1,000, while Yugoslavia’s national ratio is 194.9. One in three Kosovars is a student of some kind, yet educational facilities for Albanians are underfunded. Pristina University has 36,000 full-time and 18,000 extension program students, two-thirds more than planned when the university was created, forcing some students to share beds. About 80 percent of the students are in programs such as Islamic art, Albanian history, or folklore, graduating more students than there are available jobs in these fields. Their professors are generally poorly qualified, more than half lack PhDs, and they generally produce little new research and are not well regarded by their colleagues elsewhere in Yugoslavia. The student body is generally disaffected. Many ignore Rilindja, an Albanian language newspaper in Pristina, which covers university news on Wednesdays, and prefer TV and radio from Albania rather than Yugoslavia’s Albanian stations.
Economic Conditions - Kosovo is the poorest part of Yugoslavia, and Albanians are generally poorer than Slavs—for example, in 1980 67,000 Kosovars were unemployed, over 10 percent of the population and the highest rate in Yugoslavia. Out of every 1,000 people newly employed in Kosovo in the early ‘80s, 258 are Montenegrin, 228 Serb, and 109 Albanian, though the majority of Kosovars are Albanians. By 1988, Serbs will be 23.6 percent of the population and have 36 percent of the jobs, and Montenegrins will be 2.5 percent of the population and have 9.3 percent of the jobs. Mahmut Bakalli, president of the Kosovo Provincial Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, is unable to change Kosovo’s economic relations with the rest of Yugoslavia, which pays very little for natural resources obtained from Kosovo. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 196-197, 199-200, 216; Kola, 2003, pp. 156-157]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Paulin Kola, Rilindja, Mahmut Bakalli, University of Pristina, Yugoslavia, Xhafer Shatri

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The Party of Labor of Albania’s newspaper, Zeri i Popullit, prints an article on April 8, condemning Yugoslavia’s police actions and the treatment of Yugoslav Albanians, and supporting the protest demands. It also says, “The London and Versailles Treaties, which settled the frontiers between Yugoslavia and Albania, can no longer be imposed to the detriment of the Albanian people.” PLA First Secretary Enver Hoxha may be the anonymous author of the article. A Zeri i Popullit article two weeks later says hundreds were killed, wounded, missing, or arrested, and that it is Albania’s right to condemn Yugoslavia’s repeated actions, which it has not done officially. Zeri i Popullit points to Yugoslavia’s charges about the treatment of Croats and Slovenes across its border in Carinthia, which the article compares to Albanian concerns about Kosovar Albanians. Albania denies seeking to annex Kosova. The Yugoslav government sees these articles as evidence that Albania is behind the demonstrations, after initially blaming domestic and Western sources. As a result, previously increasing economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries will be reduced. On April 29, Lazar Kolisevski, a member of the Yugoslav Presidency, presents a report to a meeting of the Presidency and the Federal Council for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, charging that the PLA caused the demonstrations, which were “hostile and counter-revolutionary,” and sought unification with Albania. Kolisevski calls nationalism the greatest threat to Yugoslavia and says “economic nationalism,” economic divisions between groups in Yugoslavia, is the main cause of friction, which a Zeri i Popullit article also pointed out.
Allegedly PLA-Linked Kosovar Groups - Several allegedly PLA-linked organizations will be blamed for the protests: the Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification (whose leader, Adam Demaci, has been in jail since 1975), the Red Popular Front (considered closer to the PLA), eight “irredentist” groups arrested before the events, and the Albanian Communist Marxist-Leninist Party in Yugoslavia (represented at the 8th Congress of the PLA, in September 1981, and having almost the same program as the PLA). Besides these “extremists,” Kosovo President Xhavid Nimami blames “Ballists” led by Abaz Ermeni and “Zogists” led by Leka Zog, Zog I’s son, and equates calls for “united Albanians” to “United Serbs,” etc., saying they would destroy Yugoslavia. In 1997 an anonymous high-ranking official will allege that a meeting of officials and professors was held in Tirana to propose inciting Kosovars to seek more rights. Albanian anti-communist scholar Paulin Kola will suggest that this was done to distract Albanians from economic problems caused by the break in relations with China in the late ‘70s. Others will allege that Albania’s Sigurimi security agency organized the demonstrations, through ties with Albanians in Western Europe, especially Switzerland. Some Kosovars will say they received support from Albanians, but not from the Albanian government. Kola will point to the alleged role of the ex-communist Socialist Party of Albania in the formation of the KLA in the ‘90s as evidence that Albania was behind the 1981 events. In 1992-1993 and 2001 interviews, Xhafer Shatri will tell Kola that he thought the March 1981 demonstrations were unplanned. On the other hand, Albania benefits from trade with Yugoslavia and Yugoslavia acts as a buffer against the USSR. Albania will repatriate 249 Kosovar Albanian asylum seekers back to Yugoslavia from 1981 to 1983.
Alleged Soviet Involvement - In late April, Yugoslavia’s Fadil Hoxha says “Greater Albanian nationalism” would destabilize the Balkans as much as other nationalisms, and implies that the USSR wants to destabilize the Balkans to undermine the Non-Aligned Movement. In June, Zeri i Popullit will accuse the USSR of trying to use Serbia’s crackdown to cause problems in the Balkans and NATO. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 202-207, 211-212; Kola, 2003, pp. 158-160, 163]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Non-Aligned Movement, Leka Zog, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Lazar Kolisevski, Kosovo Liberation Army, Adem Demaci, Enver Hoxha, Fadil Hoxha, Party of Labor of Albania, Red Popular Front, Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification, Yugoslavia, Zeri i Popullit, Abaz Ermeni, Albania, Xhavid Nimami, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Xhafer Shatri, Sigurimi, Socialist Party of Albania, Ahmet Zog I

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

An ethnic Albanian kills four sleeping soldiers—two Bosnians, a Croat, and a Serb—in his barracks in the central Serbian city of Paracin, then kills himself. Thousands attend the Serb victim’s Belgrade funeral, and a few also visit the grave of Aleksandar Rankovic, a former minister of the interior. Rankovic was denounced in 1966, at the Fourth Plenum of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia’s Central Committee, in part for the treatment of Kosovar Albanians. [Kola, 2003, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Alexander Rankovic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Slobodan Milosevic, leader of the Serbian branch of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, visits Kosovo to consult with local party officials. While there, Kosovar Serbs ask him to focus on their issues in a subsequent visit, which will happen on April 24. Between the two visits, Milosevic’s staff organizes large demonstrations by Kosovar Serbs. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Slobodan Milosevic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The Central Committee of the Federal LCY (League of Communists of Yugoslavia) endorses Serbia’s demands for constitutional changes. On November 19, Serbian LCY leader Slobodan Milosevic speaks at a rally of 100,000 people in Belgrade, reportedly the largest gathering since the end of World War II. Milosevic says he will “establish peace and order” in Kosovo and that “Kosovo is the very center of [Serbia’s] history, its culture, and its memory. All people have a love which burns in their hearts for ever. For a Serb that love is Kosovo. That is why Kosovo will remain in Serbia.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 177]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Two days of Kosovar Serb demonstrations about the economy, after earlier demonstrations had been dispersed by police, persuade the leadership of the Montenegrin communist party, the LCY, and the government to resign. Momir Bulatovic, a supporter of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, becomes the new leader of the Montenegrin LCY. This follows Kosovar Serb protests in October 1988 that toppled the provincial government in Vojvodina, another part of Serbia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia, Momir Bulatovic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Several members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY)‘s Political Bureau, including Kosovar representative Kole Shiroka, resign to protest Slobodan Milosevic’s push for the removal of Kosovar Albanian leaders. The resignations precede the Eighteenth Plenum of the Central Committee, which will meet on October 17. [Kola, 2003, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Kole Shiroka, Slobodan Milosevic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY)‘s Eighteenth Plenum does not approve Slobodan Milosevic’s proposal that the Central Committee be purged; Milosevic, the leader of the LCY’s Serbian branch, retains his post. National LCY leader Stipe Suvar, a Croat, and Milan Kucan, leader of the Slovenian LCY, criticize Milosevic. Suvar proposes a confidence vote in the Politcal Bureau, but Milosevic rejects the idea, because he is a regional leader and the Plenum represents the entire Yugoslav party. Milosevic also ignores the Plenum’s vote to fire his aide, Dusan Ckrebic. The Slovenian leadership is willing to consider Serbia’s demand for constitutional amendment in exchange for more capitalistic economic policies. Milosevic says the recent Serb demonstrations show the high level of civil liberties in Yugoslavia, while Kosovar LCY leader Azem Vllasi, an ethnic Albanian and target of Serb demonstrations, says they are one aspect of “a well-disguised attempt to change the policy of national equality in Yugoslavia and the country’s foundations.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 175-176]

Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, Azem Vllasi, Dusan Ckrebic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Milan Kucan, Stipe Suvar, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

At the end of January, ethnic Albanians demonstrate in favor of Kosovar communist party leader Rahman Morina. This follows Morina’s refusal to meet with the Free Students, a new group calling for political reforms, the suspension of political trials, and the release of political prisoners. The protesters in January are joined by workers, and tens of thousands protest for the end of the state of emergency, for civil liberties, open elections, and for the freedom of a group of arrested miners and Azem Vllasi, who has been on trial in fits and starts since October in a courthouse ringed by tanks and off limits to diplomats and observers. Demonstrators assault trains, buses, and cars before being attacked by Serbian police, leading to more demonstrations. Academic Paulin Kola will say that 27 protesters and one officer are killed, and over 100 are wounded in all, while author Miranda Vickers will say 31 demonstrators die. The Yugoslav military intervenes and a curfew is declared in late February. However, in mid-April Serbia’s ministry of the interior takes control of Kosovo’s police, and then the Yugoslav presidency ends the emergency and curfew, and releases 108 prisoners, including the miners, Vllasi, and Adem Demaci. Demaci is a popular figure among Kosovar Albanians and advocates non-violent means. Albanian police officers are replaced by 2,500 Serbian police. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 241-243; Kola, 2003, pp. 185-186]

Entity Tags: League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Adem Demaci, Azem Vllasi, Free Students, Paulin Kola, Miranda Vickers, Yugoslavia, Rahman Morina

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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