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Kosovo (autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija) is a region in the western Balkan Peninsula with an Albanian majority population (estimated at 82% prior to the international conflict of 1999, but now somewhat larger owing to the ethnic cleansing of Serbs c.f.Kosovo population data-points). “Kosovo” means “Blackbird's field” in Serbian.

Its international status is anomalous in that although it is formally a province of the Republic of Serbia, actual administration is presently conducted by the United Nations with no involvement on the part of the Serbian governments. A parliament was elected in November 2001 and Ibrahim Rugova[?] was selected as president in March 2002, however the UN retained control of security, justice and external affairs.

With an area of 10,887 km2 and a population of around 2 million on the eve of the 1999 crisis, Kosovo borders with Montenegro to the northwest, rest of Serbia to the north and east, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the south and Albania to the southwest. The largest cities are Priština, the capital, with 190,000 inhabitants, and Prizren[?] in the southwest with 120,000: five other towns have populations in excess of 50,000.

Kosovo's anomalous status is the result of the Kosovo War of March-June 1999, in the course of which air strikes against the Federal republic of Yugoslavia's armed forces, by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forced the withdrawal of military and the province's occupation by a NATO-led international force (KFOR) including also Russian troops.

Entered by Serbs migrating from the north-east around the early 7th century AD, Kosovo was a centre of the medieval Serbian kingdom until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in the late 14th century. The existing Albanian population was greatly added to by migrants from the west (modern Albania) during the centuries of Ottoman rule, when Islam also became the faith of most of the Albanian people.

Kosovo became a part of the revived kingdom of Serbia during the First Balkan War of 1912-1913, at which time Albanians numbered some 60-65% and Serbs 25-30% of the area's 400-500,000 inhabitants (or vice versa, c.f. Kosovo population data-points). Yugoslavian communist government created Kosovo as an autonomous region of Serbia in 1946 and an autonomous province in 1963. Kosovo enjoyed almost complete self-government under predominantly Albanian local communist party leaders from 1974 until 1989, when its autonomy was revoked by a more nationalistic Serbian government following widespread allegations of discrimination against Serbs.

Albanian opposition to Serbian sovereignty, which had surfaced in rioting (March 1981) in the capital Priština, subsequently took the form of separatist agitation by opposition political groups and armed action from 1996 by the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves, or UCK). Terrorist attacks and Serbian military action reduced the province by 1998 to a state of internal war, occasioning western intervention amid widespread allegations of Serbian reprisals against Albanian civilians.

Both NATO and the UN continue to recognise Kosovo as a part of Serbia, but with the departure since 1999 of much of the Serb population and the reluctance of local Albanians to see Serbian sovereignty restored in practice, it is difficult to imagine how the removal of de facto Serbian authority in the province can be reconciled with assurances of Serbia's continued territorial integrity given by the NATO powers and reaffirmed (June 1999) in UN Security Council resolution 1244.

At the same time, it is also difficult to see how Serbia would consent to recognizing independence of Kosovo, and without Serbia's approval, recognition of Kosovo independence would be extremely problematic under international law as it would be a violation of the principles of territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs[?]. The most likely outcome is the indefinite continuation of the current situation.

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