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Since Kosovo is a province of Serbia, people often ask why there are Albanians living there. Another way to put this question might be, "Why isn't everyone who lives in Serbia, a Serb?"

Like many of the past and present countries of Eastern Europe, Serbia has many minorities. Usually these minorities in Eastern Europe are national groups (sometimes called "ethnic groups" or "nations"), but they are not usually racial minorities. Sometimes they are religious minorities, although in and of itself religion is just one cultural identifier in the region. Like languages, religions function as a part of culture and group identity; by themselves they do not determine wars and conflicts in Eastern Europe, but they are part of the matrix of identity that allows national distinctions to emerge. Photo courtesy of UNHCR Media and Public Affairs Unit (R. LeMoyne)

These national minorities--like the Albanians and the Hungarians in Serbia, or the Turks in Bulgaria, or the Greeks in Albania--have or have had their own languages and cultures, distinct from those of the dominant groups in their countries. Sometimes these minorities have co-nationals (people who share their language, culture, and history) in other countries. For instance, there are almost 2 million Albanians in Serbia, but next door, the Albanians have their own country with over 3 million Albanians.

One reason there are ethnic Albanians in Kosovo instead of just in Albania is that the political map of countries in Eastern Europe (and in other parts of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East) does not yet match the actual "human geography," or patterns of population, of the region. The model of countries most familiar to many people in North America and Western Europe is the "nation-state" model, in which every people (nation) has its own country (state). This system of matching up peoples and countries is not unknown in Eastern Europe, but its growth has been slowed by historical factors, such as the long presence of large, multinational empires and a pace of economic modernization slower than that of Western Europe.

Another reason why there are ethnic Albanians in Kosovo is that they settled there when Kosovo was a part of the Ottoman Empire. In recent history, Kosovo has been a part of Serbia only since 1913, right before World War I. Before that, it had for centuries been a part of the Ottoman Empire, whose Turkish rulers had allowed people of many different nationalities to settle in the region. Since World War II, the percentage of the population in Kosovo that is Albanian has climbed steadily, prompting fears among Serbs that the region might not want to stay part of Serbia.


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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