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Kosovo-Serbia Conflict

  • 06 Jun 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Kosovo-Serbia Conflict, NATO, Albanians, World War 2, Soviet Union.

For Mains: Kosovo-Serbia Conflict.

Why in News?

Serbian protesters and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) peacekeepers recently clashed in Kosovo, leading to more than 60 injuries. It is the most serious violence seen in the region in over a decade.

What is the Cause for Current Tension?

  • Northern Kosovo experiences frequent tensions stemming from the larger ethnic and political divide between ethnic Serbs and Albanians.
  • Ethnic Serbs, who form a majority in northern Kosovo, attempted to block Albanian mayors from taking charge in local councils.
  • Serbs boycotted local elections in April 2023, resulting in a low voter turnout of less than 3.5%. The election results were rejected by Serbs as illegitimate.

What is the Kosovo-Serbia Conflict About?

  • Geography:
    • Serbia: Serbia is a landlocked country in eastern Europe that shares borders with Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, etc.
    • Kosovo: Kosovo is a small landlocked region that lies to Serbia’s southwest, sharing borders with North Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro. Many Serbs consider Kosovo the birthplace of their nation.
      • Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

  • Ethnic Background:
    • Kosovo is a region where Serbs and Albanians, representing different ethnicities and religious backgrounds, have been living for centuries.
      • 1.8 million people living in Kosovo, 92% are Albanian and only 6% Serbian. The rest are Bosniaks, Gorans, Turks and Roma.
    • Serbs are primarily Eastern Orthodox Christians, while Albanians in Kosovo are predominantly Muslim. Other minority groups include Bosnians and Turks. Serbs form the majority in Serbia, while Albanians are the majority in Kosovo.
  • Battle Of Kososvo:
    • Serbian nationalists view the 1389 Battle of Kosovo between the Serbian prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic and the Ottoman Sultan Murad Hudavendigar as a defining moment in their national struggle.
    • On the other hand, Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians view Kosovo as belonging to them and accuse Serbia of occupation and repression.
  • Disintegration of Yugoslavia:
    • From 1945 after the end of World War II to 1992, the area in the Balkans comprising present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, was one country, officially known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) with Belgrade as its capital. Serbia included autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina.
    • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia disintegrated, with each republic becoming an independent country.
      • Slovenia was the first to secede in 1991.
    • The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the weakening of the central government in Yugoslavia, accompanied by resurgent nationalism.
      • Political leaders exploited nationalist rhetoric, eroding the common Yugoslav identity and fueling fear and mistrust among ethnic groups.
    • In 1998, ethnic Albanian rebels formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to challenge Serbian rule.
  • Intervention of NATO:
    • NATO intervened in 1999 after Serbia's brutal response, leading to a 78-day air campaign against Kosovo and Serbia.
    • Serbia agreed to withdraw its forces from Kosovo, resulting in the return of Albanian refugees and the displacement of many Serbs who feared reprisals.
    • In June 1999, Kosovo came under international administration, with its final status remaining unresolved. Several Serbian leaders, including President Milošević, were indicted for war crimes by the UN's tribunal.

What is the Current Status of Kosovo?

  • While Kosovo declared independence in 2008, Serbia still considers it to be an integral part of Serbian territory.
  • Countries such as India, China, and Russia do not recognise Kosovo as a separate country, while the US, the majority of EU countries, Japan and Australia do so.
  • A total of 99 out of 193 United Nations (UN) countries now recognize Kosovo's independence.

What was India’s Stand on the Staus of Kosovo?

  • India claims that Kosovo does not fulfill the three principles required for recognition: a defined territory, a duly constituted government accepted by the people, and effective control over an area of governance.
  • India has opposed Kosovo's membership in international bodies such as UNESCO, Apostille Convention, Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, and Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
  • India's non-recognition of Kosovo is based on its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, with whom it has a long-standing relationship.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Consider the following pairs : (2023)
Regiona often Reason for being in news mentioned in news

  1. North Kivu and Ituri : War between Armenia and Azerbaijan
  2. Nagorno-Karabakh: Insurgency in Mozambique
  3. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia: Dispute between Israel and Lebanon

How many of the above pairs are correctly matched?

(a) Only one
(b) Only two
(c) All three
(d) None

Ans: (d)


  • Kivu and Ituri are related to the Republic of Congo. A war between the Republic of congo and Rawanda started in 1994 with genocide of 800,000 Rawandan Tutsis and Hutus. Hence, pair 1 is NOT correctly matched.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of southwestern Azerbaijan. It is used to refer to an autonomous oblast (province) of the former Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (S.S.R.) and to the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-declared country whose independence is not internationally recognized. The old autonomous region occupied an area of about 1,700 square miles (4,400 square km), while the forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh presently occupy some 2,700 square miles (7,000 square km). Hence, pair 2 is NOT correctly matched.
  • Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are related to Ukraine and they are related to the dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Hence, pair 3 is NOT correctly matched.

Source: IE

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