The recently declared independence of Kosovo makes it the world's newest country and refocuses attention on the former Yugoslavia and Albania, and the various languages spoken in the region. At the heart of current events in the former Yugoslavia is Kosovo, though a series of wars apart from the Kosovo war were fought in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's. Kosovo's days old declaration of independence is strongly rejected by Serbia and by its patron, Russia. Geographically, Kosovo borders Serbia to the north, Montenegro to the east, and Albania and the Republic of Macedonia to the south. Kosovo has a population numbering two million.
The population is primarily Albanians, though populations of Serbians, Turks, Romani , Goranis, Bosniaks, and other ethnic communities also reside there. Priština is the capital and largest city. With approximately more than 90% of the population of Kosovo being ethnic Albanians, the Albanian language is recognized as an official language along with Serbian. Other languages including Turkish, Romani, and Bosnian are also spoken. In addition, to Albania and Kosovo, Albanian is also spoke in Italy, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, and by immigrant communities in many countries throughout Europe, as well as in communities in Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. The history of Kosovo's struggle to independence is quite complicated.
As a province within Yugoslavia, Kosovo was first formed in 1945 as the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohian Area to protect Yugoslavia's Albanian minority largely localize in the region. The history of Kosovo dates back to antiquity when according to Authur Evans, it was known as Dardania which is derived from the Albanian word dardhë meaning pear; after the Illyrian tribe known as the Dardani. The key difference between Albanians and neighboring countries is their adherence to Islam. This is connected historically to the Ottoman conquest of Kosovo. The conquest was a significant achievement for the Ottoman Turks as the minerals resources in the Kosovo region proved a needed asset to the Ottoman empire.
The establishment of Ottoman hegemony in Kosova initiated a new era culturally and religiously. The religious makeup of the region was complicated with the existing Catholic population in a delicate if not unfavorable relationship with the new Turkish regime. The beleaguered status of the Catholic Church led to increasing oppression of its members. Religiously selective taxation as well as threats to national assimilation by absorption into the Serbian Orthodox Church led to a mass conversion of Albanians into Islam further cementing the cultural, religious, and linguistic differences that continue today.
Jacob Lumbroso is a world traveler and an enthusiast for foreign languages, history, and foreign cultures. He writes articles on history and languages for and has used Pimsleur Method courses to learn various languages.