I love world history. I especially love world politics. I have loved it ever since I took a Model United Nations camp last summer, and had the opportunity to represent a country’s problems in front of a mock General Assembly. This truly gave me the chance to deeply examine where a country’s problems may stem from, be it a certain ideology, geographical issues, or the threat of an enemy. For such a complex subject, world history should frankly have a larger textbook that can contain all the different mishaps/conflicts/victories that have occurred ever since mankind realized that certain people wielding power over others was called politics.
I’d like to share with you a conflict that has occurred fairly recently. Please keep in mind that my aim is to inform, not slander. If I seem to skip over parts of history, it’s simply because I don’t know that part of the story. I will also try my best to give the most objective account of the story and do my best not to incorporate my own political biases.
Whew! Okay. Disclaimers are over. Let’s talk about Kosovo. In truth, I only first became interested in Kosovo because my favorite singer, Dua Lipa, is from there. But that’s beside the point. Kosovo has a fascinating history that I’m very excited to share with you!
Do you know where Kosovo is? You can find it on a map of Europe. But you may have to do a little searching—Europe is fairly big and Kosovo is fairly small. It’s no Vatican City or Andorra, but it could easily fit inside of, say, Austria or even Macedonia. It’s located a ways north of Greece and is surrounded by Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro.
A fairly reasonable conclusion to draw about Kosovo from this information is that it’s a country—albeit a fairly small country, but then again, aren’t most European countries? Surprise! It’s not a country. Wikipedia classifies it as a state of disputed status—a fancy term for when people can’t decide if a parcel of land is a country or not. Some countries, like the United States, argue that it is. India, among others, argues that Kosovo is not a country. Well, if it isn’t, you might be wondering, what is it then?
Close your eyes. I’m taking you back to the end of World War 1. It’s 1918 and the world is reeling in the aftermath of a brutally bloody war. Austria-Hungary has just split up, and one of the countries formed from the remnants is christened Yugoslavia. This country encompasses modern-day Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. As you can imagine, it’s a mishmash of a few different ethnicities, such as Croats (from Croatia) and Serbs (from Serbia). However, it’s important to note that Serbs weren’t the majority in Serbia but in fact the minority; most of the country was ethnic Albanian.
A country with a mishmash of different ethnicities is usually fine, but not in Yugoslavia, which eventually fractured along its ethnic lines into various countries that I’ve already mentioned before. This happened in part because of Serbia.
In the rough 1980s or 90s, a Serbian man named Slobodan Milosevic became president. For the ethnic Albanians, he was bad news. Milosevic focused on increasing Serbian nationalism and ethnic pride. Everything was fine until this nationalism turned somehow into a persecution of the majority ethnicity, the Albanians.
The Albanians pulled a Mahatma Gandhi and tried a non-violent separation, which formed the Republic of Kosova. Unfortunately, Kosova was only recognized as a country by Albania. Some of the Albanians formed the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla group whose friction with the Serbian police escalated into the Kosovo War.
The bloody war has, thankfully, since ended, but the discussion continues today. Kosovo officially stated its independence from Serbia in 2008. The argument over this statement’s legitimacy is fairly cut-and-dry: Kosovo’s and NATO’s (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies recognize Kosovo as a country, while Serbia’s allies don’t and argue it is still part of Serbia. European countries that do not recognize Kosovo include Cyprus, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia. However, Albania, Turkey, France, Denmark, and many more do. As long as a few powerful countries protest Kosovo’s independence, it can never be accepted as a Member State of the UN. But that was nearly twenty years ago; maybe a new, more peaceful generation will extend friendship on both sides.
Either way, an American map will show Kosovo as a tiny smudge on the European map. It looks so tiny that the country’s label has to be abbreviated ‘KOS’. But I think that for some Kosovars, that may be enough.