Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo Summary


Though the humanity has already reached the highest point of its developed as we all live in the era of advanced technologies, offering people all modern conveniences; in the era of freedom which has touched almost all countries in the world showing good example of developed countries to the developing one, people still did not learn a very important lesson “who to live in peace”. Being one of the major disasters, wars and military conflicts, bring a lot of sorrow, pain and suffering to thousands of people, who consciously or unconsciously become participants and victims of military conflicts. The saddest thing about it is that in most cases wars bring significant losses among innocent people, while those who provoked the beginning of conflicts continue to live, making the humanity wondering why the feeling of guilt or feeling of hatred towards them does not kill. There are various reasons causing the beginning of military conflicts. In Balkans, the main reasons of all conflicts are always the same. People, following the interests of politicians of their own interests, start the conflicts there because of differences of religions (Christianity and Islam) or because one nation occupies the territory of the state historically belonging to the other nation. Reasons can be different, but outcome is always the same – suffering of people. Political or terrorist leaders who are at the head of the conflicts usually do their best to hide it from international community, which might ruin their plans by interfering. However, it is impossible to keep in secret the deaths of thousands of people. One of the most acute issues in Balkans is ethnic cleansing of people, which took place in Kosovo, Yugoslavian province, which is mostly inhabited by Albanians. Exactly Albanians became the subject of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

The main goal of designing current study is to speak about major issues relevant to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The paper will focus on both Albanians and Yugoslavians as the main participants of the conflict. Reasons, leaders and impact of ethnic cleansing will also be analyzed further in the study.

1. Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: General Overview

Speaking about ethnic cleansing requires clear understanding of what ethnic cleansing is. Thus, it is important to define the term ethnic cleansing, which appeared in the early 1990s in Yugoslavia. Ethnic cleansing is a process of deportation of a certain ethnic group from a country or area, which is inhabited by other ethnic group. The main goal of such a policy is to “cleanse” the territory from people of certain ethnic group, claiming that this territory does not belong to them, but to other people. Very often ethnic cleansing is accompanied by extensive violation of human rights as people are forced to leave their homes and escape to nowhere without any guarantee that they will be welcomed at some other places. Ethnic cleansing is conducted in a form of military conflict, which means that people are not only forced to leave their houses, but their principal right – right to live – is put under danger. So, why does it all happen? There are various reasons to start a military conflict, however, as the history of the modern world shows one of the mostly widespread causes of wars and conflicts is religion. Despite of the fact that the main purpose of religion is to comfort people’s souls, on the contrary, it leads to various misunderstandings resulting in conflicts and people’s suffering. In former Yugoslavia, which was composed of six states and was inhabited by both Serbs and Albanians, two main religions – Islam and Christianity – exist now and existed in the period of ethnic cleansing. It happened so historically that on the territory of Kosovo, which was originally inhabited by Serbs hundreds of years ago, after certain historic events another nation known as Albanians came to live there. As the author of the article “The War In Kosovo: Pacifism & Ethnic Cleansing” Eileen Egan noted: “The Serbs, fiercely loyal to the Orthodox church, see in their Muslim neighbours a reminder of the Serb defeat by Muslim armies six hundred years ago and their long travail in subjection to the Ottoman Empire” [1]. After the World War II Albanian population started to exceed in quantity the amount of Serbian population, threatening the integrity of the country. The reason of such a threat was that Serbs were Christian and Albanians were Muslim, and because the followers of each religion were opposed to either Christianity or to Islam, it gave the first push to ethnic conflicts in the country. Indeed, religion is one of the major factors, which helps either to create a state or to ruin it. Because the most sacred places of Serbian population are situated in Kosovo they so eagerly wanted to return it. However, some scientists argue that “the conflict over Kosovo was, from the beginning, a conflict between the “Serbian/Yugoslav governments and Albanian population in Kosovo for territory and political power” [2]. There is no doubt that religion could not be only one factor influencing the conflict in Yugoslavia. When an ethnic conflict obtains such significant dimensions, it is necessary to look deeper into it, after which it becomes clear that political leaders are not only involved in the conflict, but they are the principal makers of it. Because of the events taking place on the territory of Kosovo at the end of the 20th century, it “has captured the attention of policymakers, ethicists, journalists, peace and human rights activists, military analysts, and international relations scholars” [3], who started to examine the causes and outcomes of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. It is also important not to forget the impact of international community on events in Kosovo and the situation with Albania. So, another important factor which had a large impact on the relationship of Serbians and Albanians was the influence of international community on Albania, which was obviously depended “on some western powerful states, if not the entire international community, was also a factory for its week position towards Albanians in Yugoslavia” [2].

The main purport of ethnic cleansing was to expel Albanians, 90 per cent of which are Muslims, from Kosovo “in an ethnic cleansing devised by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and carried out by the army of Serbia” [1]. Former leader of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, created such a regime in Yugoslavia under which thousands of Albanians were forced to leave the homes. Multiple cases of violence by Serbian soldiers, including executions, massacres, rapes and pillage, have been reported while the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. However, Albanians did not wish just to escape the territory, they wished to fight back. It is historically proved that “the short period of Albanian domination of Kosovo was characterized by discrimination over the Serbian minority (during the First and Second World War and after June 1999)” [2].

Ethnic cleansing of Albanians, which took place in Kosovo, a province of former Yugoslavia, started long before it has been reported to the international community. By 1999 there have been multiple attacks on Albanians, which have become even more severe in March 1999, when “over 1,200 residential areas, including over 500 villages were burned” [6]. In order to protect the houses of Serbians, “Serbian civilians in many towns painted a Cyrillic “S” on their doors so that Serbian forces would not attack their homes by mistake”[2]. The destruction of settlements was so terrible that there was no chance for Albanians living in Kosovo to return. Serbian soldiers did not care whether they were destroying the houses where women and children lived, thus, their cruelty amazed everybody, especially the cruelty of the former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, who has been accused of many crimes and died while waiting for passing of the sentence.

2. Major Racial Issues of Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo

Having discussed what reasons make people be involved into ethnic cleansing it is necessary to take a closer look at ethnic cleansing in Kosovo from the viewpoint of Albanians and to focus on their major racial issues. It wasn’t until March 1999 when the violence against Albanians became especially severe. As a result of it and “following mounting repression of ethnic Albanians and the breakdown of negotiations between separatists and the Serbs, NATO began bombing military targets throughout Yugoslavia, and thousands of ethnic Albanians were forcibly deported from Kosovo by Yugoslav troops” [7]. So, what happened in Kosovo that roused the indignation of the international community? In March 1999 there were mass executions of Albanians living on the territory of Kosovo. In order to prove or refute these facts investigations have been conducted, which revealed mass graves of Albanians. Though, Serbs “took steps to destroy forensic evidence of their crimes” [6], the results of investigation showed 2,100 bodies, which “have been found by the ICTY among the some 200 atrocity sites” [6]. By 1999 almost one million of Kosovo Albanians escaped the territory. And though it is very hard to give the exact number of victims “whose bodies have been burned or destroyed may never be known, but enough evidence has emerged to conclude that probably around 10,000 Kosovo Albanians were killed by Serbian forces” [6]. Thus, almost 90 per cent of Albanians who used to inhabit the province have been expelled from it as a result of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

As it has been stated above, Serbians used violent methods of expelling Albanians from their homes. They burnt their houses without any warning, making Albanians leave as soon as possible. Before burning the houses they used to rob them and take any subjects that had some value. Serbian soldiers were accused by the victims of beatings, harassing, and extortion of all Albanians and rape of ethnic Albanian women. According to the U.S. State Department Report conducted on ethnic cleansing in Kosovo: “Kosovo Albanian women reportedly were separated from their families and sent to an army camp near Djakovica, where they were raped repeatedly by Serbian soldiers” [6]. Though not all facts could be gathered on this subject, it is possible to assume that Albanian women indeed suffered very much from the Serbian soldiers, who violated not only their rights but also their dignity. As it is stated in the U.S. State Departement Report: “medical facilities have reported abortions among refugee women who reported being raped by Serbian forces” [6]. Another form of violence against Albanians was identity cleansing, which is proved by multiple reports stating that “Serbian forces confiscating identity and property documents including passports, land titles, automobile license plates, identity cards, and other forms of documentation from Kosovar Albanians as they were forced out of villages or as they crossed international borders into Albania or Macedonia” [6]. The main reason of such behavior from the side of Serbs is their desire to destroy Albanians as nation. That’s why the destroyed everything: Albanian houses, schools, places of worship, hospitals and other attributes of their identity.

Seeing what was happening in Kosovo NATO came to a decision to intervene into the conflict, and in 1999 it starting the bombing of Kosovo. Some view NATO’s intervention in Kosovo conflict as positive as it was designed to “prevent crimes against humanity” [4], while others think that such an intervention provoked even more violent actions from the side of Serbian forces. After signing the agreement about withdrawal of Serbian soldiers from the territory of Kosovo, multiple reports on violence still continued to appear. While withdrawing from Kosovo, “Serbian troops and militias continued to rape women, loot property, burn homes and mosques, and murder Kosovar Albanians” [6]. After Serbian soldiers left Kosovo, those Albanians who managed to survive the ethnic cleansing returned to their homes. And now it was the turn of Serbs to be “fearful of retribution from returning Kosovo Albanians and the influence of former members of the UCK” [6]. For this reason military troops had to be left in Kosovo to prevent the population from further violence.

In 2000 Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia, “was turned over to the war crimes tribunal by the Serbian government” [7]. And in 2002, two countries Serbia and Montenegro established an agreement and developed a new constitution, which was approved in 2003. Thus, it was the end of Yugoslavia’s existence, “which had essentially ceased to exist in the early 1990s, disappeared even as an official name for the two-republic federation that survived” [7].

3. Yugoslavians in the Conflict with Albanians

As it has been stated above the conflict in Kosovo, which resulted in ethnic cleansing against Albanians, was originally caused by the differences in religions and certain historic events, which took place on this territory. According to historic evidence Kosovo was originally inhabited by Serbs, who were trying in the 20th century to expel Albanians from their lands. However, for several centuries Kosovo has been a home for Albanians too, who even started to prevail Serbian population in quantity. It is sad to note that the end of international conflict did not put the end of violence in Kosovo. Though the majority of Serbs had withdrawn from Kosovo, ethnic cleansing did not end there and was again associated with much violence and people suffering. At this time, the violence affected both Albanians and Serbs, however “the Serbs and other minorities have suffered most heavily” [6]. Wishing to revenge for their suffering, Albanians wanted the Serbs to suffer as well. For this reason, “Serbs have been subjected to kidnapping, murder, arson, grenade attacks, shootings, and a variety of other intimidation tactics, including bombing places of worship” [6]. Albanians destroyed dozens of Orthodox Churches, which belonged to Serbian population. According to the U.S. State Department Report, there were “estimated 200,000 Serbs” [6] in Kosovo before 1999. After 1999 only 97,000 Serbs remained there. NATO and International community felt its responsibility for what was going in Kosovo. For this reason, NATO and especially the United States offered its support by providing Kosovo with logistical and financial assistance, police training and etc. The UN has created special military body, known as Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) to prevent further violence on the territory of Kosovo.

It is clear that not only Serbs are responsible for the violence in Kosovo, their political leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is also the one who was blamed for killing and torturing thousands of innocent people. Not all Serbs were engaged into ethnic cleansing, thus, “individual Serbs should not be asked to bow under the weight of a corporate guilt for what Milosevic and his supporters did” [5]. After the agreement and deployment of NATO troops, violence did not end, because according to many sources “NATO and the U.N. have failed to provide security” [5] for Serbs, who continued to live in Kosovo. Though Albanians claim that their “aim is not a state without Serbs but statehood simpliciter” [6], they continue to violate the rights of Serbs, whose lives they make intolerable in Kosovo. Kosovo government does very little to prevent violence, as the policy in Kosovo is not based on democracy by on “clan loyalty” [5]. According to the author of the article “The Fate of Serbs in Kosovo” Jason Lee Steorts: “Albanian politics in Kosovo is frequently violent and hugely influenced by organized crime” [5]. For this reason, it is impossible to say that ethnic cleansing in Kosovo is ended. It did end at the level of two nations, but it does continue at an individual level, as the common language between Albanians and Serbs can still not be found.

Life in Kosovo did not stabilize at the economic sphere either, because the large segment of economy is shadow. According to statistic evidence “more than 50 percent of economy is informal, and real unemployment may run as high as 30 percent” [5]. Economy of Kosovo was not successful at privatizing state industries, thus, further development of economy is under big question mark.

4. Application of Scientific Theories to the Main Issues of Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo

All scientists and politicians agreed that events, which took place on the territory of Kosovo, can be called as “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians by Serbs. As a term, “ethnic cleansing” appeared to describe “massive crimes and deportation of the Bosnian Muslims” [2]. As compared to genocide ethnic cleansing appears to be more humane, as it means “forceful deportation from inhabited lands” [2], while genocide “refers to the complete or partial physical extermination of certain national, ethnic or religious groups” [2]. Being one of the types of manifestation of ethnic conflicts, ethnic cleansing is also a very violent method of dealing with these conflicts. Though, in theory it refers only to deportation of people from certain territory, in reality it is accompanied by extensive usage of violent actions, which have been discussed above by the example of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. It is statistically proved that birth rate of Albanians was significantly higher than birth rate of Serbs, who became fearful of it and treated as “biological genocide” over Serbs” [2]. This was basically one more important reason that caused ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Scientists have tried to apply several theoretical approaches to ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia. However, none of them was practically used by Yugoslavian government and Serbs.

Ethnic conflicts can be solved by means of Integration of Assimilation. Both of these strategies are used to eliminate cultural and religious differences existing in different ethnic groups as a means to solve ethnic conflict. The usage of both integration and assimilation was rather effective in other countries; however, it was not the case in Kosovo, where the government chose forcible methods of expelling Albanians from their homes. Integration refers to acceptance of one ethnic group by the other one as a part of their nation. It did not happen in Yugoslavia, where Albanians have been always considered as outsiders. The theory of assimilation is somewhat different from integration. The policy of assimilation is designed for “replacing the existing identity with a new one, or creating a new identity derived from all ethnic groups” [2]. The government of Yugoslavia did not succeed in implementing any of these strategies, though it did not even try very hard. The policy of assimilation was “inconsistent with the Saint Germaine Agreement that Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes had signed, in order to protect and promote the rights of ethnic minorities according to international covenants” [2]. However, the government did not really care about ethnic minorities and “the protection of minority rights in Kosovo had never been a characteristic of Yugoslave/Serbian governments during this period and the state elite was acting against the League Nations Treaty on the Protection of Minorities” [2].

More suitable theory that can be applied to the ethnic conflict in Kosovo is the Power Conflict Theory, which reflects the conflict of Serbian and Albanian government, resulting in ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.


Having spoken about ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, its causes and results, it is necessary to make a conclusion. Ethnic cleansing in Kosovo conducted by Serbs against Albanians and later Albanians against Serbs has aroused mass interest and indignation of other countries as a response to violent actions in Kosovo. The reports and news on the events taking place on the territory of Kosovo were shocking and horrifying not only because thousands of Albanians were forced to leave their homes, having no shelters even temporarily, but also because the deportation of Albanians was accompanied by mass extortion, burning of houses, killing, rapes and other forms of violence against Albanian population. This mass violation of human rights happened because of the differences in religious and historic background of Serbs and Albanians, and because of differences in interests of Albanian and Serbian government. Exactly the latter headed by Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for mass deportation of Albanians and violation of their rights.

Egan, E. (1999). The War in Kosovo: Pacifism & Ethnic Cleansing. Commonweal, Vol. 126.
Hoxhaj, Enver. (2005). The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation in Kosovo. Retrieved December 2, 2006.
Mertus, J.A. (2001). Legitimizing the Use of Force in Kosovo. Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 15.
Shank, G. (1999). Commentary: Not a Just War, Just a War – NATO’s Humanitarian Bombing Mission Journal article by Gregory Shank. Social Justice, Vol. 26.
Steorts, J.L. (2005). Ethnic Cleansing, Continued: The Fate of Serbs in Kosovo National Review, Vol. 57.
Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting. December 1999. Retrieved December 2, 2006.
Yugoslavia. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004.

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