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Questions & Answers

what does "balkans" refer to?

The Balkans are a group of countries on a mountainous peninsula in southeastern Europe. Though subject to interpretation, most agree that the Balkans include Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, and parts of Croatia, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

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Do the ethnic groups in Kosovo get along?

Although they once got along relatively well, Serbs and ethnic Albanians now live in separate worlds with mutual hatred.

How can you tell a Serb from an Albanian?

Other than their different languages, it can be difficult for a foreigner to tell Serbs from Albanians. Serbs tend to be taller and Albanians are more likely to have light hair.

How did Albanians become the majority in Kosovo? Why aren't they in charge?

Serbs began migrating from Kosovo in 1692, under Turkish Ottoman rule. Over the next century, the Albanian population grew, and they are thought to have become the majority around the beginning of the 19th century (although there were no censuses at the time and both sides dispute this).

Kosovo was freed of Ottoman rule in the early 20th century and was considered Serbian land based on historical claims. Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito gave Kosovo autonomy to weaken Serbia, which would have otherwise dominated Communist Yugoslavia. Until recently, a heavy police presence backed by the Yugoslav Army was enough to control the ethnic Albanians.

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What is the KLA?

The Kosovo Liberation Army (known to ethnic Albanians as the UCK) is a rebel guerrilla army funded by ethnic Albanians abroad and supported by most Albanians in Kosovo.

What caused the unrest in Kosovo last year?

While the Serbs were cracking down on ethnic Albanians during the past decade, the KLA was slowly taking shape in the rural villages. The KLA got a windfall in early 1997, when the neighboring country of Albania blew up in civil unrest and government weapon stocks were looted. Many of those weapons were smuggled into Kosovo, and by late 1997, the KLA was ready to fight.

Why is Kosovo important to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs?

Kosovo contains the most magnificent of the Serbian Orthodox Church's monasteries. It is also the site of the mythic Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, in which the Serbs were defeated by the Ottoman Turks and subjected to 500 years of occupation. The Serbs consider the battle a victory, however, in the sense that they saved the rest of Europe from being overtaken by the Turks.

What is the Serb Orthodox Church?

In 1054, the Christian Church divided over political differences into the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. As the Byzantine Empire declined in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Orthodox Church split into national churches. After 100 years of autonomy, the Serbian Orthodox Church got its first patriarch in 1346.

What religions do people practice?

Most Serbs, who are Orthodox, and ethnic Albanians, who are Muslim, lived for years under communism and are not deeply religious. Religious differences have been exaggerated as political divisions have widened.

What do people do for a living?

Farming is the most common occupation in Kosovo. Serbs, who run state institutions, are well employed. But Albanian families, many of which have a member working abroad and sending money home, tend to have more hard currency.

Do ethnic Albanians and Serbs attend the same schools?

Albanians and Serbs have separate schools - official schools for the Serbs and underground ones for Albanians. Many rural schools are hard-pressed due to the fighting, but schools are operational in major cities.

Is a plan emerging from the peace talks?

The draft plan calls for Kosovo to be autonomous and for ethnic Albanians to control the police, local government, and courts. NATO would send peacekeepers, including 4,000 US troops. One likely provision would fine-tune the agreement in three years.

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