YUGOSLAVIA, SERBIA AND KOSOVO – HISTORY part I


Serbia was the last Yugoslav area that was constituted as a federal unit.  This important constitutional act took place, in several phases, from November 1944 to August 1945. At the moment of convening the Big Antifascist People’s Liberation Assembly of Serbia (November 9 – 12, 1944) Kosovo and Metohija, equally as Vojvodina and Sandzak, were not formally in the composition of Serbia. The territorial framework of Serbia, at that moment, was not finally defined. The Assembly held a session without authorized delegates of the mentioned regions but, independently of that, its’ decisions had a constitutional-legal character and determined the undoubted sovereignty and precise jurisdictions of authority Serbia had acquired. Federal Serbia was essentially constituted by those decisions as an integral and equal-righted part of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.

After liberation, the Kosovo-Metohija region had the feature of a political area with expressed elements of autonomy. No discussions were held about its status at the Big Antifascist People’s Liberation Assembly of Serbia. This issue was found on the agenda of the session of the Antifascist Assembly of People’s Liberation of Serbia (AAPL or Serbian ASNO) on April 7, 1945, when it was concluded that the Kosovo-Metohija region should, as an autonomous unit, be included in the composition of federal Serbia. AAPL of Serbia heard attentively and accepted “unanimously” the official statement of the Regional People’s Liberation Committee (PLC or Serbian NOO) of Kosovo and Metohija that “peoples of Kosovo and Metohija desire to annex to federal and brother Serbia”, as well as the information that, after termination of Military Administration, an assembly of the Kosovo-Metohija region shall be organized at which the decision “to annex to federal Serbia” would be formally made. In the Resolution which AAPL of Serbia voted for, the statement of the Regional PLC that “Kosovo and Metohija are considered as integral part of federal Serbia” was “cordially” welcomed. A position that “Shiptars (Albanians) from Kosovo and Metohija shall fully enjoy their national rights and have all possibilities for political, economic and cultural development” was expressed. The relations established between Democratic Federal Yugoslavia and Albania, were considered crucial in the “final liquidation of policy of mutual extermination” characteristic of Serbs and Shiptars. The Resolutions indicated an impending solution to the agrarian issue “in favor of local Shiptar and Serbian population and colonists” and expressed hope that the existing circumstances would influence “the development of democratic spirit among the Shiptar population of Kosovo and Metohija”.

The final resolution of the autonomous position of the Kosovo-Metohija region could be made only after termination of work of the Military Administration. The settling of circumstances enabled the convoking of the Regional People’s Parliament of Kosovo and Metohija in Prizren (July 8 – 10, 1945) at which the decisions of AVNOJ were accepted; the entire work of the Regional Committee of the Kosovo-Metohija region approved; the principle of equality of peoples affirmed; Yugoslavia marked as the “true fatherland” of Serbs, Shiptars and Montenegrins from Kosmet (Kosovo-Metohija). It was particularly emphasized that the “annexing of Kosovo and Metohija to federal Serbia” favored most the “political, economic, cultural and other interests of the Shiptars, Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosmet”. The Resolution, voted on July 10, 1945, was of exceptional legal importance, wherein “the brightest fact” outlined that “once and for all” an ending to the policy of “mutual discord and struggle of Serbs and Shiptars” was made and that the deepening and strengthening of brotherhood and unity was proclaimed as the “holy duty” of each citizen of Kosovo and Metohija and “the leading principle” in the works of the organs of the people’s rule. The key position of the document represented a “unanimous statement” of the Regional People’s Parliament of Kosovo and Metohija “that the population of this Region” expressed a desire that the Region “be annexed to federal Serbia” as its integral part. The Resolution pointed out the conviction of the peoples of Kosovo and Metohija “that in the people’s government of Serbia they shall find full protection” and obtain hearty help from the authorities of Yugoslavia “in their political, national, economic and cultural growth”. At the same time, by its contents, the Resolution made legally invalid the decisions of the Bujan Conference on the unification of Kosovo and Metohija with “Shipnia”.

At the first meeting of the Third session of AVNOJ held on August 7, 1945, AVNOJ confirmed the annexing of Kosovo and Metohija to federal Serbia in a special Resolution and so brought to an end the process of the political-legal constitution of Kosovo of Metohija. The decisions of the Regional People’s Parliament of Kosovo and Metohija confirmed, subsequently, the Law on the establishment and organization of the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohija Region (September 1, 1945). The region disposed of autonomous rights but all attributes of state character were under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Serbia as federal state. It was accentuated that on the territory of the Region all citizens “disregarding nationality, race, religion or sex, enjoy equal rights and have equal duties i.e. enjoy full equality as citizens of Serbia that is Democratic Federal Yugoslavia”. The languages of all peoples in the Region were marked as equal and all citizens were given the right to “educate themselves in their native language”. The Law obligated the Regional People’s Parliament on the basis of the Law of Serbia and DFY to make decisions that would protect laws, guard the rights of citizens and direct the economic and cultural life.

The elections for the Constituent Assembly were held on November 11, 1945 and 88.66% of the registered voters turned out. In Serbia this percentage was significantly less and amounted to 77.16%. In Kosovo and Metohija 97.69% voted. Candidates of the People’s Front won 90.44% of the votes on the level of the entire country; in Serbia they won 88.59% and in Kosovo and Metohija they won 96.78% of the votes of the electoral turnout. The election victory of the Peoples’ Front, disregarding the manner it was won (through applying pressure and frightening the voters), gave the Communist Party of Yugoslavia the possibility to formally start “solving” the already solved in advance  issue about the form of governing. The newly elected Constituent Assembly proclaimed Republic on November 29, 1945 and on January 31, 1946 passed the new Constitution. This was a final act in the process of shaping the new Yugoslav state. The Constitution confirmed that the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohija Region represented an integral part of the People’s Republic of Serbia. The constitutional structure of Yugoslavia was completed by passing the Republic Constitution of Serbia (January 17, 1947) and Bylaws of the autonomous units (May 1948). The Constitutional acts in the Kosovo-Metohija Region provided “autonomous rights” and guaranteed protection of cultural identity, free usage of language and enjoying of all other minorities’ rights to the national minorities.

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From the beginning of 1945, the Yugoslav-Albanian relations, fit into Stalin’s vision of a Balkan federation, developed on a rising path and left an impression of mutual friendship. The cooperation developed in agreements concluded between NKOJ (National Committee for Liberation of Yugoslavia) and the provisional government of Albania in Belgrade on February 20, 1945. “The Agreement on ally and mutual help” had a form of military ally concluded in the purpose that both countries “together with other United peoples prolong the conducting of war until final victory over Germany”. The countries’ signatories obliged themselves, among other things: not to conclude armistice with Germany without mutual agreement; not to enter into alliance or block with a third country “that would be aimed against one of the contracting parties”; to offer one another any kind of help for the protection and defense of independency, sovereignty and borders against attack from abroad”, to develop close economic and cultural relations with obligatory mutual “full protection and respect of the rights of their national minorities”. The Agreement also obliged the provisional government of Albania to engage two divisions in mutual military operations with the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. “Agreement of Economic Cooperation” between Yugoslavia and Albania predicted the “canceling of customs borders” and exchange of goods that “are not subject to any hindrances”. The countries’ signatories were also obliged “within their limits of ability to develop an exchange of goods between their countries to the greatest possible extent”; to provide free ship navigation and usage of piers; not to conclude economic agreements with third countries without previous consultation and not to conclude agreements that would be harmful for one of the countries’ signatories.

By concluding the military-political and economic agreements the relations between Yugoslavia and Albania gained such a degree of mutual obligations that near political integration was indicated. Indirectly testifying to this was the request addressed to the Albanian Government from March 9, 1945 to send expert personnel for three secondary schools in Kosmet (Priština, Prizren and Peć); the decision to allow the education of ethnic Albanian pupils and students in Yugoslavia; the daily sending of economic help and medicaments; as well as expert and economic support in the renewal of Albania. While the help of Yugoslavia was necessary it was felt in numerous segments of Albanian everyday life (from economic and military help, through political support to cultural-educational cooperation). Parallel with that, the issue of Kosovo and Metohija “in a refined way” did not lose on relevancy with the Albanian public or among politicians and diplomats. The Albanian authorities aimed that all persons remain in the area of Kosovo and Metohija who were settled by the occupational administration during the war years (clerks and colonists who gained land confiscated from expelled or killed Serbs and Montenegrins). Engaged primarily in administrative and educational works, these persons, in the majority of cases, remained supporters of annexation of Kosovo and Metohija to Albania and patrons of the idea of “Greater Albania”. Some Albanian nationalists, instructed by the representatives of Anglo-American military missions, came out openly with the thesis that the military and economic reliance on Yugoslavia made the position of Albania difficult in cooperation with the West. The issue of Kosovo and Metohija was among the direct interests of almost all political, economic and cultural associations that gathered Albanians in the country and abroad (through emigration). Some of the emigrants and opposition asked from Enver Hodxa to place the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and the Albanian minority in Macedonia at the agenda of the Paris Peace Conference. The pressure was especially exerted during the Albanian rebellion, during the imposition of military administration and the decisions of AVNOJ making the Kosovo-Metohija region an integral part of Serbia  Some of the Albanian politicians on the other hand hoped that by joining the Balkan federation with Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, Albania would succeed to “pull out” Kosovo. Fear and suspicion of getting drowned in a wider community with Yugoslavia was smaller than the motif of unification of all areas in which Albanians lived. In the background of all misunderstandings that defined the relations of Yugoslavia and Albania stood always, as an insurmountable hindrance that was more or less hidden, the issue of Kosovo and Metohija.

During his stay in Belgrade (June 26 – July 2, 1946), on which occasion the “Agreement of Friendship and Mutual Help” and “Agreement on Economic Cooperation” of FNRY and Albania were concluded, Enver Hodxa and Josip Broz Tito discussed the issue of Kosovo and Metohija only in the context of ideas about Balkan federation. Seeking modalities that would provide in the future federation the dominance of Yugoslav impact, Tito thought of the possibilities of “leaving” Kosovo and Metohija to Albania (either to be included in the composition of Albania, or to gain autonomy, or become a seventh federal unit of Yugoslavia, or to be a federal unit of a future Balkan federation) but had in mind the possible reaction of Serbia, which would, by this, lose its medieval state center and inalienable part of its territory. Tito’s position that work should be done “on a correct solution for the Kosovo issue” was interpreted by each side in a different way. However, one thing that is certain is that the issue of annexing Kosovo and Metohija to Albania was not present in the Yugoslav-Albanian agreements, not even as an alternative. This determined the position of the authorities in Tirana that it was illusory, without consent of Belgrade, “to open” the issue of Kosovo and Metohija at the Peace Conference in Paris. After returning to Tirana, Enver Hodxa informed the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania about the official position of Moscow (stated on the occasion of the meeting Molotov – Kardelj – Hodxa) “that between USSR and Albania stands Yugoslavia and that Albania should establish the closest relations first of all with Yugoslavia”. This position defined, in the following years, the direction in which the political, military, economic and cultural relations of the two countries moved.

The first signs of “reserved attitude” and aggravation of relations occurred in the work of six mixed Yugoslav-Albanian associations. This created an impression that “customs unions” between the two countries (Agreement on Customs Union concluded in December 1946) would not withstand the trial of time. The change of behavior of the Albanian side was followed by Yugoslav-Soviet disagreements that, from the economic, quickly transferred to the political terrain gaining contours of more and more serious ideological differences. The change of the political course of Albania became especially visible after the visit of Enver Hodxa to Moscow and his meeting with Stalin. The crisis in which the Yugoslav-Albanian relations were found in 1947 was additionally deepened in spring the following year. Albania started becoming more and more a Soviet strategic watchtower towards Italy and the Mediterranean. The Soviet experts took over the entire control in all segments of economic and military life of Albania pressing out Yugoslav “personnel”. Moscow marked the continuation of the process of integration of Yugoslav and Albanian army as harmful. It did not agree with the idea of sending one Yugoslav division into south Albania, in the aim of securing the frontiers towards Greece. The paternalistic position of Yugoslavia towards Albania was exposed to criticism. Stalin indirectly called attention to Yugoslavia regarding its influence in Albania, which ought to have “more understanding” for the Soviet global political objectives.

About near unification there were fewer thoughts both in Belgrade and in Tirana. The lack of trust in the intentions of both sides was visible. Honest reconciliation prescribed the necessity for reexamining the entire cooperation and there was no time for it anymore. In the middle of April Enver Hodxa asked the Yugoslav side to withdraw military and civil experts from Albania. The Politburo of the Communist Party of Albania supported zealously the attitudes of the Information Bureau and joined the campaign against Yugoslavia. In the beginning of July, 1948 Albania broke unilaterally 27 economic, political and cultural agreements with Yugoslavia. The crisis of distrust on the relation Tirana – Belgrade inevitably actualized anew the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. At the end of 1948 and the beginning of 1949 border incidents and over-border escapes frequented (in 1948 – 14 violations of state territory and 16 border incidents; in 1949 – 43 violations of state territory and 58 incidents; in 1950 – 34 violations of state territory and 72 incidents). The Albanian political leaders hoped that loyalty to Stalin would be awarded by annexing Kosovo and Metohija to Albania. The policy of paternalism towards the Albanians in Yugoslavia became from that moment, obviously, one of the fundamental dimensions of the foreign political course of Albania. Attempts of reconciliation in the framework of a new social project (communism according to the Soviet model) hence met with definite failure while the concept of territorial and ethnic Albania, which meant the separation of Kosovo and Metohija from Yugoslavia, gained full affirmation.

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In socialist Yugoslavia Albanians were the largest national minority. War and postwar events made significant influences on the change of the demographic structure of Kosovo and Metohija. Regulations from 1945/1946 pursuant to which revision of agrarian reform and return into homes of colonists was prohibited (11,168 families) contributed to a significant reduction of the Serbian population. In the same period 2,064 Serbian families (around 10,300 persons) were moved from Kosovo and Metohija to Vojvodina. According to population census from 1948, 532,011 Albanians lived in Serbia (8.1% of the total population of the Republic). In the following years and decades their number was noticeably increased (in 1953 – 565,513; in 1961 – 699,772), while, in the same period about 17,500 Serbs and Montenegrins more were displaced from Kosovo and Metohija. During the years of conflict with the Information Bureau, several thousands of Albanians came and settled permanently in Kosovo and Metohija. The results of the census of population show that the Albanian population increased in the period 1953 – 1961 by 15.3% and that it composed 67% of the total population mass of the Region. In the same period the presence of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo and Metohija demonstrates s permanent decline (in 1953 – 29%; in 1961 – 27%). The noticeable increase of the number of inhabitants of Albanian nationality are shown by the subsequent censuses of population (984,761 or 73.66% – in 1971; 1,303,034 or 77.42% – in 1981; 1,674,353 or 81.59% – in 1991). The high birthrate of the Albanian population (about 27 pro milles) is a basic characteristic of the demographic processes in Kosovo and Metohija. In the period 1961 – 1981 emigration of Serbs under pressure continued (around 115,000), whereas in the period from 1971 to 1981, 13 times more Serbs and 9 times more Montenegrins emigrated from Kosovo and Metohija than settled there. According to percentage the Serbs and Montenegrins in 1971 composed around 20% of the inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija (Serbs 18.35%), in 1981 around 15% (Serbs composed 13.22%) and in 1991 somewhat above 12% (Serbs 10.7%). The policy of “national keys” contributed to this, which, starting from 1967, favored Albanians. A large proportion of ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija “drowned” in the Albanian ethnical corpus in the 20th Century.

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The basic characteristic of the economic conditions in Kosovo and Metohija in the years after World War II represented a low level of industrialization. The majority of the inhabitants lived in villages and off agriculture (80.9%). A small estate and large agrarian overpopulation (about 183 inhabitants per 100ha of cultivable soil) determined the economic circumstances of the village. Caught in plans of industrialization – with the migration of the agricultural population and development of urbanization – Kosmet quickly changed the structure of economy and its appearance in the subsequent years. Data for the period 1947 – 1987 testify about the scale of lodged energies and funds in the purpose of reaching changes of economic conditions:  the gross domestic product was seven times greater; the gross product per inhabitant of the Province tripled; the employment rate increased almost six times (from 38,000 to 227,000); the percentage of agricultural population decreased from 80.9% to 24.6%; the share of industry increased from 16.1% to 41.3% and the total participation of agriculture reduced from 57.5% to 23.7%. During the decades the industrial production increased by 18 times. The growth of production was followed by the rising economic standard of the population. The death rate which in 1947 was 13 pro milles fell in 1987 to 5.3. The average life expectancy of an inhabitant of the Province was prolonged from 45 to 66 years for men and 70 for women. Nowhere in the area of Yugoslavia was the economic and social development as dynamic and dramatic (the growth rate in Kosovo in Metohija during the years 1948 – 1984 was 9.1% annually) but, despite everything, Kosovo and Metohija, in relation to the most developed parts of the country, still tragically lagged behind. The reasons for this should be sought in the high population growth (the domestic product increase rate dropped to 3.1% per inhabitant); unfavorable structure and low efficiency of investments (direction towards raw material and energy branches which demanded large investments); small work productivity (almost twice less than in developed regions of the country); unsatisfying educational structure of the employed. Attempts of the state to speed up the economic development of Kosovo and Metohija by distribution of funds from the Federation (up to 1970, 30% of these funds were given to Kosovo and Metohija, 43% in 1980 – 1985, shortly before disintegration of the state around 45%), did not produce the expected results.

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