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The existence of "ethnic Albanians" (Kosovars) in Kosovo (or Kosova, as the Albanians refer to it) is not a unique situation in the Balkans. Although most Albanians live in Kosovo (about 1.8 million) and in Albania itself (about 3 million), the neighboring countries have Albanian minorities as well. Montenegro, which is linked to Serbia as part of today's Yugoslavia, has about 7% Albanians in its population of 600,000. Macedonia, which has a total population of 2.1 million, is about 20% Albanian.

Macedonia is today a democratic country, but its leaders feared the possibility of the Kosovo conflict spreading across its borders even before the current refugee crisis. If Kosovo were to erupt into open conflict, as it indeed did in the spring of 1999, the Macedonians worried that their own Albanian population might become radicalized or might assist the Kosovars; in the latter case, Serbian cross-border retaliation would then be likely. With its fragile economy, delicate ethnic balance, and the possibility of Serbian intervention, the country might soon be facing a major crisis. Photo courtesy of UNHCR Media and Public Affairs Unit (R. LeMoyne)

So far, the country of Albania is remaining neutral in the Kosovar refugee crisis. But there were periods of intense conflict between Albanians and Serbs around the times of both World Wars. Recently, many weapons have been smuggled into Kosovo through Albania. Since Albania is the poorest country in Europe and has recently been beset by its own political troubles, its direct intervention against well-armed Serbia is unlikely, but Albania could play some role in the guerrilla struggle of its co-nationals to regain their Kosovo homeland.


Why Are There "Ethnic Albanians" in Kosovo?..| Who Are the Serbs?..|..History of Kosovo to 1918..|..Kosovo within Yugoslavia..|..Kosovo and Its Neighbors..|..Issues Affecting the Future of Kosovo..|..Kosovo Today

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