He who does not travel does not know the value of men.
— Moorish proverb




Ethnic Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century but did not fully incorporate them into the Serbian realm until the early 13th century. During the medieval period, Kosovo became the center of a Serbian Empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The defeat of Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War of 1912. Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia with status almost equivalent to that of a republic under the 1974 Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Despite legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s, which led to riots and calls for Kosovo's independence. At the same time, Serb nationalist leaders, such as Slobodan MILOSEVIC, exploited Kosovo Serb claims of maltreatment to secure votes from supporters, many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland. Under MILOSEVIC's leadership, Serbia instituted a new constitution in 1989 that revoked Kosovo's status as an autonomous province of Serbia. Kosovo Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum that declared Kosovo independent. Under MILOSEVIC, Serbia carried out repressive measures against the Albanians in the early 1990s as the unofficial Kosovo government, led by Ibrahim RUGOVA, used passive resistance in an attempt to try to gain international assistance and recognition of an independent Kosovo. Albanians dissatisfied with RUGOVA's passive strategy in the 1990s created the Kosovo Liberation Army and launched an insurgency. Starting in 1998, Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces conducted a counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians. Approximately 800,000 Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo during this time. International attempts to mediate the conflict failed, and MILOSEVIC's rejection of a proposed settlement led to a three-month NATO military campaign against Serbia beginning in March 1999 that forced Serbia to agree to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo's future status. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo's final status. The negotiations ran in stages between 2006 and 2007, but ended without agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, over sixty countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo's independence and it subsequently sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo's independence declaration. In July 2010 the ICJ ruled that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate international law.


Kosovo (Albanian: Kosova, Serbian: Kосово) is a "de-facto" independent country in South Eastern Europe. After a lengthy and often violent dispute with Serbia, Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 and has been recognised by more than 69 countries around the world, despite heavy Serbian opposition. Kosovo is largely an Albanian speaking and Muslim area, but there are also significant numbers of minorities living within its borders, especially Serbs. Kosovo borders Albania to the west, Montenegro to the northwest, Macedonia to the south, and Serbia to the northeast.

While the legitimacy of the Kosovar government is disputed by some countries, from a traveller's point of view the Kosovar government has de facto control of the country. This is not a political endorsement of claims by either side in the dispute.

Read more about Kosovo in our Kosovo travel guide »

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Southeast Europe, between Serbia and Macedonia

Geographic coordinates

42 35 N, 21 00 E

Area comparative

slightly larger than Delaware

Border countries

Albania 112 km, Macedonia 159 km, Montenegro 79 km, Serbia 352 km


0 km (landlocked)


influenced by continental air masses resulting in relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns; Mediterranean and alpine influences create regional variation; maximum rainfall between October and December


flat fluvial basin with an elevation of 400-700 m above sea level surrounded by several high mountain ranges with elevations of 2,000 to 2,500 m

Lowest point

Drini i Bardhe/Beli Drim 297 m (located on the border with Albania)

Highest point

Gjeravica/Deravica 2,656 m

Natural resources

nickel, lead, zinc, magnesium, lignite, kaolin, chrome, bauxite


1,815,048 (July 2010 est.)

Ethnic groups

Albanians 92%, other (Serb, Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Turk, Ashkali, Egyptian) 8% (2008)


Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic


Albanian (official), Serbian (official), Bosnian, Turkish, Roma

Government type



17 February 2008 (from Serbia)

National holiday

Independence Day, 17 February (2008)

Chief of state

Acting President Jakup KRASNIQI (since 27 September 2010)

Head of government

Prime Minister Hashim THACI (since 9 January 2008)


8 (2010)

Other countries in the region